Satellite Composite Image of St. John (Note locations of New Hope and St. John)
St. John (also known as St. Jean) is an island 543 miles southeast of Cape Cod, 763 miles directly east of the Maryland/Delaware coast, and 445 miles northeast of Bermuda. 2015 United States census estimates put its population at 56,729.
The largest city on the island is St. John, with a population of 17,235 as of 2010. The population is largely bilingual, speaking both French and English.
St. John was founded as St. Jean in 1605 by the French after it was discovered by Samuel de Champlain on his first voyage to the New World. In their effort to expand New France, St. Jean was an important trading post, stopping-point, and military stronghold that was quickly developed after its founding in 1606. By the end of French-Indian War in 1763, however, France was rapidly forced to leave most of the New World and St. Jean no longer held military importance. It became a largely agricultural community that sustained itself through trading between communities on the island.
In 1945, following VE Day, France gifted the island to the United States as a gesture of thanks for the United States' role in the liberation of France and because of its relative proximity to the United States. The population of St. John remained largely rural through the early 2000s, with a large French population and smaller American population of "expats" who sought a French lifestyle within the United States and its territories.
However, in 2001 St. John began to experience a population boom. The territorial government, led by Jean St. Pierre, pushed an aggressive marketing campaign to attract tourists to the island. Soon St. John experienced rapid growth as more and more people discovered its rugged natural beauty and beautiful climate.
In 2015 the United States ratified both St. John and Puerto Rico as new states, bringing the total number of states to an even 52.
St. John is 44 miles long and 28 miles wide. It has a total area of 1,532 square miles.
The island's geography is defined by rolling hills and flats on the eastern two-thirds of the island and steep mountains across the length of the island on the west coast facing in the direction of the United States.
The highest point is Mount Champlain, which reaches a height of 5,246 feet and is located just to the west of St. John. The mountain range, named the Neigemonts range, is part of Neigemonts National Park, founded in 1999 to protect the natural beauty of St. John's rugged coastal mountain range and old-growth forests.
Mount Champlain Rising Above the Tree Line
The western coast is defined by steep mountains plunging into the sea, narrow, deep bays and calanques, and heavily forested mountain valleys. There is only one settlement, St. Luc, on the western coast, and it lies in a small plain surrounded by mountains to the north, south, and east. The only way to reach St. Luc is either by ferry or by the 22-mile long Coral Mountain Pass, which traverses a narrow, cliff-flanked valley.
The eastern half of the island is defined by rolling hills and farmland peppered with old-growth forest here and there. The bays are wider and shallower. In the middle of the island lies its only large body of water, Clear Lake, which is 7 miles long and 2 miles wide and lies in the foothills of the Neigemonts.
Given its northern latitude - directly east of Delaware and Southern Maryland - one would assume that St. John has a similar climate to the Mid-Atlantic United States, with cool winters and hot, humid summers. However, it has a much warmer (and more consistent) annual climate due to the moderating effects of the Gulf Current. The Gulf Current surrounds the island and as a result, the warm water provides warm air temperatures - a similar effect to that seen in Southern Europe and the United Kingdom from the same current.
Precipitation almost exclusively comes from the west and runs into the Neigemonts. While the mountains are not huge, they are tall enough to stall storm systems and "sap" them of moisture. As a result, a large number of storms that hit St. John never reach the eastern third of the island. This provides a shadow effect in which the eastern third of the island (and even the eastern two-thirds, to some extent) see significant sun and warmth. As one gets further east on St. John, annual precipitation levels drop and average air temperatures increase.
The Neigemonts see average annual precipitation of 55". Average annual snowfall in the Neigemonts depends on altitude. In the valleys between mountains annual snowfall is between 8"-22" while the higher altitudes see upwards of 300" of snow per annum. The mountains average 178 days of sunshine per year.
The middle portion of the island sees average annual precipitation of 17" and average annual snowfall of 0" - 3". It has an average of 292 days of sunshine per year.
The eastern portion of St. John sees average annual precipitation of 9" and no annual snowfall. They see average annual sunshine of 323 days per year.
The average temperatures also correspondingly change based on altitude and position east/west.
The average January temperatures in St. John are:
Neigemonts: High: 35 Low: 20
Neigemonts Valleys: High: 45 Low: 35
Neigemonts Foothills: High: 58 Low: 44
Eastern Third: High: 67 Low: 48
The average July temperatures in St. John are:
Neigemonts: High: 65 Low: 49
Neigemonts Valleys: High: 77 Low: 54
Neigemonts Foothills: High: 85 Low: 67
Eastern Third: High: 92 Low: 74
Though the average temperatures in the eastern-third are high in the summer, the air is relatively dry. In the mountains there are more streams and creeks and conditions are generally wetter due to rainfall from continental storms, leading to higher humidity levels. Often it can feel hotter in the National Park and foothills than it does in the lower valleys due to the affect of humidity in the summer.
St. John is largely rural but currently undergoing growth due to acceptance as the 52nd State of the United States and growing knowledge about its natural beauty and fantastic weather.
The two largest centers of population are St. John on the southern coast and New Hope, on the northern coast. The two are almost exactly north and south of each other and are both located on bays. New Hope is a center of industrial production on the island, home to several large factory complexes, including a chip-production center for IBM, and automobile plants for both Ford and Honda.
Between the two cities is a large expanse of largely rural farming communities ranging in population from 500 to 2,000.
Ethnic breakdown of St. John:
The Niegemonts Rise Above Woodstock, showing the difference in climates during the winter months.
Mont Surneige, the second highest peak on the island as seen from the east. Just beyond it is the Atlantic Ocean and St. Luc, an isolated community on the western coast.
A typical eastern valley view from the edge of the Neigemonts Foothills.
Southwestern Neigemonts range in the summer.
Rapid growth fueled by a tourism push and new statehood is causing former farmland to be swallowed up by new developments in St. John.