The Appalachian Mountains are a mountain range that extends approximately 1,500 miles. The mountains begin in the north in Newfoundland, Canada, and extend as far south as Alabama in the United States. Much of eastern and southeastern Ohio is covered by the mountains or their foothills. Spanish explorers named the range after an Indian village.
Historically, the Appalachian Mountains proved to be a major impediment to Ohio's settlement and development. Crossing the mountains is relatively easy today in cars, trains and airplanes. It was very difficult during the 1700s and the early 1800s, when people traveled by foot, wagon, or on horseback. Most Ohio farmers sent their extra crops to the East Coast via the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, and then through the Gulf of Mexico and around Florida on ocean-going vessels. While this water route was much longer in distance, the travel time was much shorter and the cost was much less expensive than traveling in wagons over the Appalachians Mountains. The first paved (gravel) thoroughfare to cross the Appalachian Mountains was the National Road, which reached Ohio in 1825. Soon other forms of transportation arose, including canals and railroads, which greatly improved travel times across the mountain range.
During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, many Ohioans prospered due to the rise of industries within the state. One of the primary reasons for industrialization was the abundance of coal and iron ore that existed in the Appalachian Mountains. Eventually, mining companies removed much of the coal and iron ore that existed in eastern and southeastern Ohio, causing employment in these parts of Ohio to decline. Today, eastern and southeastern Ohio rank among the poorest parts of the state and are referred to as Appalachia. In recent years, both the State of Ohio and the federal government have attempted to improve the economic situation in Appalachia by encouraging businesses through tax incentives and funding highway projects.