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Worcester/Monadnock Plateau

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About the Worcester/Monadnock Plateau

The Worcester/Monadnock Plateau is a somewhat irregularly-shaped region extending from north-central Massachusetts into southern New Hampshire. This region marks the beginning of the colder and more mountainous Northeastern Highlands region.

The terrain here consists of a rolling plateau with scattered monadnocks, isolated hills or small mountains rising conspicuously above their surroundings. There are numerous ponds and lakes. The area is underlain by metamorphic rock, with the addition of glacial till.

The region has a humid continental climate, significantly colder than coastal areas. The growing season ranges from 115-145 days. Precipitation is high overall, but varies considerably by altitude. Winters have much lower total precipitation due to consistently colder temperatures, but there can still be significant snowfall from late November well into March.

This area is still mostly forested, and is sparsely populated, utilized somewhat for tourism and recreation. There are small amounts of agriculture, mostly pastureland and hay production, and some forestry, but agriculture here has declined significantly. Some smaller state forests and parks are located here, but they make up an insignificant portion of the total forest. The very small cities of Keene, NH and Gardner, MA are the only settlements of any significant size.

The borders of this region mostly represent gradual transitions corresponding to changes in soil type and forest composition associated with changes in elevation and temperature. To the south lies the geologically-similar but slightly lower and warmer Lower Worcester Plateau/Eastern Connecticut Upland. To the east, the Gulf of Maine Coastal Plain is lower, flatter, and much more densely populated. To the southwest there is a small border with the lower-lying, more agricultural Connecticut Valley. In much of this region, the border to the north is with the Sunapee Uplands, although in the northwest there is a small border with the Vermont Piedmont, and in the northeast, a larger border with the Sebago-Ossipee Hills and Plains.


1. Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Bryce, S.A., Royte, J., Hoar, W.D., Homer, J.W., Keirstead, D., Metzler, K.J., and Hellyer, G. "Ecoregions of New England (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey (2009) Web.