Physiography of Mississippi

Physical Divisions of the United States

The physiography of Mississippi is a lot less complicated than Alabama: the entire state of Mississippi falls within the Gulf Coastal Plain.

Image 1: Physical Divisions of the United States (Courtesy of Google Images)

Mississippi Physiographic Regions

Like Alabama, the Gulf Coastal Plain in Mississippi is divided up into bands of sediment which were created as the Gulf of Mexico advanced and retreated across time. Several of these bands of sediment stretch across the border from Alabama:

1.) Tombigbee Hills – The Fall Line Hills region crosses the Mississippi border and stretches through Columbus to Iuka as the Tombigbee Hills.

2.) Black BeltThe Black Prairie crosses the Mississippi border and stretches up through Tupelo to Corinth.

3.) FlatwoodsThe Flatwoods region starts at the Alabama River and stretches across the Mississippi border where it also curves north through New Albany.

4.) The Pontotoc RidgeThe Pontotoc Ridge is part of the Ripley Formation which is a unit of the Selma Group that stretches across the Alabama Black Belt.

5.) North Central HillsThe North Central Hills or the Red Clay Hills region is the Mississippi Hill Country and stretches from Meridian through Oxford to Holly Springs. In Alabama, the Southern Red Hills runs east to west across the state from Choctaw County to Henry County where it crosses into Georgia.

6.) Pine BeltThe Southern Pine Belt Region which dominates Mobile, Baldwin, and Escambia Counties in Alabama extends across the border into Southern Mississippi.

7.) Gulf Coast – The Coastal Lowlands in Alabama are continuous with the Gulf Coast region in Mississippi.

8.) Jackson PrairieThe Jackson Prairie is a second Black Prairie that runs through Mississippi from Jackson to the Alabama border.

9.) South Central HillsThe South Central Hills crosses Southern Mississippi from Waynesboro to McComb. It is an area of gently rolling hills developed over sand, clay and marl and resembles much of South Alabama.


While most of Mississippi is recognizable as the bands of sediment than run east-west across South Alabama before abruptly turning in a north-south direction, there are two notable distinct features in the state:

10.) The Loess HillsThe Loess or Bluff Hills extend due south from Western Kentucky through West Tennessee into Mississippi and consist of sand, clay, silt, and lignite and are topped by loess deposits often greater than 50 feet thick. These hills were created by the melting of the ice sheet during the last Ice Age which created large mudflats, which were exposed when the water receded, and fine-grained, wind blown silt from gigantic dust storms that was deposited on both sides of the Mississippi River. Loess Hills are also found along the Missouri River in Iowa and Missouri.

11.) The DeltaThe Mississippi Delta is a vast alluvial floodplain created by the Mississippi River, which used to be 80 miles wide at some points, from sediment brought from all over the North Central Region of the United States as the ice sheet that covered the area melted at the end of the last Ice Age.

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  1. The shape of the Delta is conspicuous in the satellite views at Google Maps: it looks exactly as it does in the multi-colored map you’ve used here. What I’ve wondered is whether the Delta would have been that conspicuous, from space, before planting burgeoned there (after the Civil War, I think). My question, in other words, is whether it’s conspicuous only because it has been cleared of trees. I have the same question about the Great Appalachian Valley, which, with Interstate 81 running through it, is similarly conspicuous in satellite view.

    Interestingly—and as maybe you know—the Delta is similarly conspicuous in maps of the black population in the U.S. What looks to be such a map (though it’s incompletely labeled) is here:

    The first time I saw the similarity of these three Delta images—map, satellite, and racial—I was startled.

    Anyway: enjoyed this informative post.

  2. Another source for Southern AG in tune with the climate and soil realities is the Stockman Grass Farmer. Its editor grew up in the Delta and he and his family currently still reside in MS. He has written as a child the highest point near him was something like a 6 foot tall dirt pile they all used to play on, other than that it was pool table flat.

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