The One Minute Geographer: About Rhode Island

Jim Fonseca
2 min readJan 17, 2022
Providence photo by Sean Pavone, Gettty Images on

There’s an old Guy Lombardo big band song that’s called Poor, Little Rhode Island. Well, the little part is right. Rhode Island is our smallest state in territory. All of its 1,035 square miles of land area are tucked in the southeastern corner of New England, like an egg, with Connecticut and Massachusetts nestled over it as mother hens.

If Rhode Island were a square, it would be 33 miles on a side and you could drive through the state in half-an-hour! Many COUNTIES in western states are larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. How many Rhode Islands could fit into Maine? 33. (There’s that number again). It would take 550 Rhode Islands to fill up Alaska.

But what Rhode Island lacks in size, it makes up for in density. It is home to just about 1.1 million people, more than in many of the states out Big Sky way: Montana, Wyoming, both Dakotas and Alaska, as well as two states back east — Delaware and Vermont.

Population density of Rhode Island (2010 data) from Wikipedia. Names of locations added by the author.

Rhode Island’s density of more than 1,000 people per square mile is not the most — New Jersey edges out Little Rhody with slightly more: 1,200 warm bodies packed into every square mile. But don’t get the idea that Rhode Island is wall-to-wall apartments and suburban homes. As we will see in the next post, most of its residents are clustered in the capital, Providence, and a few other cities.

Despite that density, more than half of the state is forested. In fact, if you’re driving on Interstate 95 traveling from Connecticut to Providence and seeing all the hilly, forested land, and sand and gravel pits, you might be tempted to ask, “Where is everybody?”

Here’s the next post in this Rhode Island series:

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Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.