- The content on this page originated on Wikipedia and is yet to be significantly improved. Contributors are invited to replace and add material to make this an original article.
The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (more commonly Rhode Island) is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is the smallest state by area, and also the state with the longest official name. Rhode Island was the first of the thirteen original American colonies to declare independence from British rule, signaling the start of the American Revolution. Rhode Island was also the last of the original thirteen states to ratify the United States Constitution.
Despite its name, most of Rhode Island is on the mainland. Providence plantations refers to the mainland, while Rhode Island was the 17th and 18th century name for Aquidneck Island (now composed of the city of Newport, and the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth).
Rhode Island is nicknamed “Little Rhody” traditionally but the state officially adopted the nickname “the Ocean State," as nearly one tenth of Rhode Island's inland area is covered by salt water and no resident is more than a thirty-minute drive from the water's edge.
In 1524, the famous Italian navigator, Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European to visit any part of what is now Rhode Island. He came to what is now Block Island and named it "Luisa" after Louise of Savoy, Queen Mother of France. Verrazzano described Luisa as "about the size of the Island of Rhodes". When the founders of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations surveyed the land, they thought that Aquidneck Island was the place. A mistake occurred in 1614, when Luisa was charted by the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, after whom it was renamed by the Dutch West India Company; however, their motives in doing so are unknown.
Rhode Island covers an area of approximately 1,214 square miles (3,144 km²) and is bordered on the north and east by Massachusetts, on the west by Connecticut, and on the south by Rhode Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. It shares a water border with New York between Block Island and Long Island. The mean elevation of the state is 200 feet (60 m). Located within the New England province of the Appalachian Region, Rhode Island has two distinct natural regions. Eastern Rhode Island contains the lowlands of the Narragansett Bay, while Western Rhode Island forms part of the New England Upland. Narragansett Bay is a major feature of the state's topography. Block Island lies approximately 12 miles (19 km) off the southern coast of the mainland. Within the Bay, there are over 30 islands. The largest is Aquidneck Island, shared by the municipalities of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. The second-largest island is Conanicut; the third-largest is Prudence. The largest city is Providence, which is also the state capital.