Official name: Republic of Liberia
Area: 111,370 square kilometers (43,000 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Wutivi (1,380 meters/4,528 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: Noon = noon GMT
Longest distances: 274 kilometers (170 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest; 548 kilometers (341 miles) from west-northwest to east-southeast
Land boundaries: 1,585 kilometers (985 miles) total boundary length; Guinea 563 kilometers (350 miles); Côte d'Ivoire 716 kilometers (445 miles); Sierra Leone 306 kilometers (190 miles)
Coastline: 579 kilometers (360 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Liberia, Africa's oldest reh2blic, is located at the western edge of the continent, on the Atlantic coast between Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. It has an area of 111,370 square kilometers (43,000 square miles), or slightly more than the state of Tennessee.
Liberia has no territories or dependencies.
Liberia has a hot, humid, tropical climate with little seasonal variation, although temperatures are cooler in the interior highlands than along the coast. The mean temperature is 27°C (81°F). Ocean breezes temper the tropical heat, sometimes accompanied by the dry desert wind called the harmattan , which blows in December. Most rain falls during the rainy season between April and November. Rainfall varies from about 178 centimeters (70 inches) in the northern uplands to 510 centimeters (200 inches) on the coast.
Starting from a coastal plain that is 40 kilometers (25 miles) wide, the terrain gradually rises through two more major geographical regions: a belt of forested hills and, beyond it, an upland region of plateaus and low mountains.
Liberia is bordered on the west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean. Since the country is only a few degrees north of the equator, it is also near the dividing point between the North Atlantic and South Atlantic Oceans. The surf is normally heavy all along the coast, but it is most tempestuous at the height of the rainy season.
The coastal region is a belt of gently rolling low plains extending 32 to 48 kilometers (20 to 30 miles) inland. It is broken along the shore by river estuaries, tidal creeks, and swamps, as well as a few prominent rocky capes and promontories. In the northwest, not far from the border with Sierra Leone, Cape Mount rises steeply from the sea to an elevation of over 305 meters (1,000 feet). Cape Mesurado is the site of Monrovia, the capital. Farther to the southeast, several other headlands break the monotony of the low shoreline. The mouths of Liberia's rivers are so obstructed by shifting sand bars, submerged rocks, and sandpits that they provide no natural harbors.
Liberia's only sizable lake is Lake Fisherman (Lake Piso), which has an area of about 40 square miles.
Most of Liberia's rivers flow in roughly parallel courses from the interior plateau to the ocean. Several of them, including the Lofa, the St. Paul, and the St. John, rise in the Guinea Highlands north of the border with Guinea. The Mano and Morro Rivers to the west form parts of the border with Sierra Leone. To the east, the Cavalla River forms the entire border with Côte d'Ivoire. The St. Paul River forms part of the border with Guinea. Rapids, waterfalls, and other barriers severely limit inland navigation.
Liberia has no deserts.
Between the coastal plain and the interior plateau is a band of heavily wooded, hilly country about 32 kilometers (20 miles) wide, with elevations of between 60 to 150 meters (200 and 500 feet).
Liberia's coast was traditionally referred to as the Grain Coast, a reference to the "Grains of Paradise," or malagueta peppers, that attracted early European traders.
There are scattered mountain ranges in Liberia's upland plateau region. They include the Putu range in the southeast, the Bong range near the center of the country, and the Wologizi and Nimba ranges in the north. The highest point in the country, Mount Wutivi, in the Wologizi range, rises to 1,380 meters (4,528 feet).
There are no notable caves or canyons in Liberia.
Beyond Liberia's coastal plain and forested hills lies a rolling plateau broken abruptly by spurs of the Guinea Highlands. Ranging in elevation from 305 meters (1,000 feet) to over 1,219 meters (4,000 feet) in the high northern uplands, Liberia's inland plateau region is the country's largest geographical region.
The Mt. Coffee hydroelectric plant is located on the St. Paul River, the second-longest river in the country.
Daniels, Anthony. Monrovia Mon Amour: A Visit to Liberia . London: John Murray, 1992.
Greene, Barbara. Too Late to Turn Back: Barbara and Graham Greene in Liberia . Introduction by Paul Theroux. London: Settle Bendall, 1981.
Zemser, Amy Bronwen. Beyond the Mango Tree . New York: HarperCollins, 2000.
Africa South of the Sahara. http://wwwsul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/liberia.html (accessed April 24, 2003).
Liberia Maps website. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/libhtml/libhome.html (accessed April 24, 2003).