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Providence, RI 02903
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A Federal Depository since 1791 and An Official Federal Depository Library since 1913

State Facts and Figures

According to the 2010 Census, Rhode Island's population is 1,052,567, which ranks it 42nd among states. Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states in geographic area. The total area of the state is 1,214 square miles, of which 1,045 are land and 169 are water. This total excludes U.S. territorial waters, which were included in previous years. Narragansett Bay is 120.5 square miles in area, and extends in from the sea 28 miles. Rhode Island has 384 miles of tidal shoreline, which includes the shorelines of the several islands. The greatest length of the state is 48 miles and the greatest width is 37 miles. Rhode Island has 35 islands within its territorial waters, the largest being Aquidneck Island, with an area of 37.8 square miles. The highest point in the state is Jerimoth Hill in Foster, which is 812 feet above sea level. The geographic center of the state is in the center of Middle Road in East Greenwich, about three-quarters of a mile from the West Greenwich town line.

Government

Rhode Island's official name: State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

Capital: Providence

Governor: Lincoln D. Chafee (D)

U.S. Senators: Jack Reed (D) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D)

U.S. Representatives: David Cicilline (D) and James R. Langevin (D)

The Rhode Island legislature, called the General Assembly, is bicameral, with a Senate and a House of Representatives whose members are apportioned on the basis of population. The Senate has 38 members and is presided over by the Senate President who is elected from the membership. The House of Representatives has 75 members and is presided over by the Speaker who is elected from the membership. Election to both houses is for a term of two years.

The Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General and General Treasurer are elected to four-year terms. Rhode Island is one of two states with no county government. It is divided into 39 municipalities, each having its own form of local government.

Survey of the Ocean State

RI Map Rhode Island lies in the northeastern part of the United States. It is bordered on the west by Connecticut and on the north and east by Massachusetts. The southern edge of the state fronts on the Atlantic Ocean. When the many bays, coves, and offshore islands are included, the state's total coastline measures more than 400 miles (640 kilometers). Narragansett Bay forms a deep 28-mile (45-kilometer) wedge into the state. The state's many islands include Aquidneck, Conanicut, Block, Prudence, Dutch, and Hog. The greatest length of Rhode Island from north to south is 48 miles (77 kilometers). The state's greatest width from east to west is 37 miles (60 kilometers). The total area of Rhode Island is 1,214 square miles (3,144 square kilometers), including 165 square miles (427 square kilometers) of inland water surface.

[Map courtesy of the RI Economic Development Corporation.]

Natural Regions

During the Ice Age Rhode Island was covered by glaciers. These great ice sheets helped shape the physical features of all the New England states. As a result the natural regions of Rhode Island are also found in several neighboring states.

The New England Upland region occupies the western two thirds of the state. This region is part of the Appalachian Highlands (see Appalachian Highlands). A rough and hilly plateau marked by forests and lakes, it extends into Connecticut and Massachusetts. Rhode Island's highest point, Jerimoth Hill (812 feet; 247 meters), is in the New England Upland region.

The Seaboard Lowland occupies the eastern third of the state. Its boundary is a north-south line that runs several miles west of Providence. This shallow lowland area extends into southeastern Massachusetts. It is also part of the Appalachian Highlands. There are sandy beaches and salt marshes. Narragansett Bay, with its branches in the Seaboard Lowland region, forms the drainage basin for most of the state's principal rivers. These include the Providence, Pawtuxet, and Blackstone rivers. In the southwestern part of the state the Pawcatuck River drains into Little Narragansett Bay.

Climate

Rhode Island has a moist continental climate, with four distinct seasons. Its weather is tempered by sea winds, particularly in the Seaboard Lowland, which has a more moderate climate than the rest of New England. The average annual temperature is about 50o F (10o C) in various parts of the state.

At Providence the average January temperature is 28.6o F (-1.9o C), and the average July temperature is 72.2o F (22.3o C). The average annual precipitation (rain and melted snow) there is 42.7 inches (108 centimeters), including 39.2 inches (100 centimeters) of snowfall. Moisture is evenly distributed throughout the year. The climate of Block Island is somewhat more moderate than that of Providence, both in winter and in summer, with much less snowfall. In the northern upland region the growing season ranges from 100 to 125 days. Near the coast it ranges from 175 to 200 days.

Rhode Island's weather often changes suddenly because the state is located near the meeting place of many storm tracks. The worst storms were a great gale in 1815, the 1938 hurricane, and a severe blizzard in 1978.

Natural Resources

Water is Rhode Island's most abundant natural resource. Waterpower supplied by the state's many small streams was once used by the textile mills. Today most of Rhode Island's textile mills are powered by steam and electricity, but they continue to use billions of gallons of fresh stream water each year.

Narragansett Bay forms an open door for trade on the Atlantic Ocean. It is also a popular recreational area that attracts many tourists. Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean are the centers of the state's valuable fisheries. Only a small part of Rhode Island's soil is good for crops and pasture. More than 60 percent of the land is forested, but the trees yield little useful timber. The chief commercial trees include maple, ash, oak, birch, willow, elm, and pine.

Geography

Area: 1,214 square miles (land & water)

Greatest Distances: North to South - 48 miles; East to West - 37 miles

Elevation: Highest - Jerimoth Hill in Foster (812 feet); Lowest - Sea level along Atlantic coast.

Coastline: Over 400 miles

Climate: Avg. Jan. Temperature - 30 degrees Fahrenheit; Avg. July Temperature - 72 degrees Fahrenheit

Yearly Precipitation: 44 inches (avg.)

A Few Interesting Facts Concerning Rhode Island Government

  • Rhode Island was the first of the thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England (May 4, 1776) and the last of the thirteen to ratify the U.S. Constitution (May 29, 1790).
  • Rhode Island was governed under a Royal Charter, granted by King Charles II in 1663, for 180 years. Rhode has been governed under its Constitution since 1843.
  • Rhode Island is the only state that still celebrates Victory Day (the end of WWII) as an official state holiday.
  • The metal from which the Independent Man atop the Rhode Island State House was cast came from the breaking up of a statue of Simon Bolivar, which once stood in New York's Central Park.
  • Rhode Island Governor Benedict Arnold, the first Governor elected under the Royal Charter in November, 1663, was the great grandfather of the infamous Revolutionary War figure, Benedict Arnold.