North Carolina is composed of 100 counties. North Carolina's two largest metropolitan areas are among the top ten fastest growing in the country: its capital, Raleigh
, and its largest city, Charlotte
. The extreme eastern section of the state contains the Outer Banks
, a string of sandy, narrow islands which form a barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and two inland waterways or "sounds": Albemarle Sound in the north and Pamlico Sound in the south. So many ships have been lost off Cape Hatteras
that the area is known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic". More than 1,000 ships have sunk in these waters since records began in 1526.
The coastal plain is North Carolina's most rural section, with few large towns or cities. Agriculture remains an important industry. The coastal plain transitions to the Piedmont region along the "fall line", a line which marks the elevation at which waterfalls first appear on streams and rivers. The Piedmont region of central North Carolina is the state's most urbanized and densely populated section.
The western section of the state is part of the Appalachian Mountain range. Among the subranges of the Appalachians located in the state are the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, and the Black Mountains. The Black Mountains are the highest in the Eastern United States, and culminate in Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet It is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
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