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 Illinois

  Natural Division Sections  

Illinois' Natural Divisions

Wisconsin Driftless Division (no sections in this division)

Rock River Hill Country Division

Freeport Section - The Freeport Section includes most of the Rock River Hill Country Division. It is characterized by rolling hills and the presence of dolomite and limestone bedrock. Limestone caves are present.

Oregon Section - The Oregon Section has sandstone bedrock and distinctive plants, including ground pine, rusty woodsia and oak fern. These plants are more commonly found in areas farther north in the United States.

Northeastern Morainal Division

Morainal Section - This section contains the moraines and related geologic features resulting from late advances in the Wisconsinian glaciation period. Most of Illinois' glacial lakes and peatlands are found here.

Lake Michigan Dunes Section - The Lake Michigan Dunes Section is distinctive for its unique plants that grow on the dunes and beaches. Plant succession from shifting sand to stabilized sand results in a variety of species. Beach grass, trailing juniper and bearberry are three examples.

Chicago Lake Plain Section - This flat, poorly-drained area is composed of the lake bed sediments of glacial Lake Chicago. Long ridges of shore-deposited sands are conspicuous features. A few natural lakes exist near Calumet City. The original vegetation of this section was prairie and marsh with scrub-oak forests on sandy ridges.

Winnebago Drift Section - The Winnebago Drift Section includes gravel hill prairies that once extended along the east bluffs of the Rock River valley into Wisconsin. The section has fairly good drainage. Wet prairies and marshes exist in the sand area along Coon Creek. The prairies contain many plant species which are more common in prairies further west of Illinois.

Grand Prairie Division

Grand Prairie Section - This section includes the part of Illinois that was affected by the late stages of the Wisconsinian glaciation, that is outside the Northeastern Morainal Division and that does not include outwash and sand areas. The Shelbyville and Bloomington moraines form the boundaries of this section. Black-soil prairie, marshes and prairie potholes are common in this poorly-drained area. The Kankakee mallow is found in this section, growing only on an island in the Kankakee River.

Springfield Section - The Springfield Section is part of the area covered by the Illinoian glaciation. Prairies grew on this land in presettlement times. It has better drainage than the younger Grand Prairie Section. Deep loess (a wind-blown silt) deposits support dry hill prairies along the lower Sangamon River. Large areas of floodplain forest grow in the valley of the lower Sangamon River and its tributaries.

Western Section - The Western Section was covered by the Illinoian glaciation. This well-drained land was predominantly prairie in presettlement times.

Green River Lowland Section - The valley of the Green River and the lower Rock River was formed by glacial meltwaters. Much glacial outwash was deposited, and sand flats and dunes developed. The section originally had many marshes and wet prairies. Scrub-oak forests grew on the sandy ridges, and floodplain forests were present along the rivers. Sand prairies were found on the sand flats and dunes. Most of this section has been disturbed by grazing, cultivation and drainage.

Kankakee Sand Area Section - The sand of the Kankakee Sand Area Section was deposited by the Kankakee Flood during the later stages of the Wisconsinian glaciation. Sand prairie and marsh were the predominant vegetation of this section before the land was drained for cultivation. Scrub-oak forests exist on drier sites. The primrose violet is restricted to this section in Illinois. The clear, well-vegetated, sand-bottomed streams contain fishes like the weed shiner, ironcolor shiner and least darter.

Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River Bottomlands Division

Illinois River Section - The Illinois Section of this division is characterized by its backwater lakes and forest vegetation. Spring bogs exist along the river bluffs.

Mississippi River Section - The Mississippi River Section is made of several, separated bottomlands along the Mississippi River, from the Wisconsin border to Calhoun County. Most of the prairies of this section have been drained for agriculture. Forests are found along the river inside levees and on river islands.

Illinois River and Mississippi River Sand Areas Division

Illinois River Section - This section differs from the Mississippi River Section by the absence of several plant and animal species.

Mississippi River Section - This section has several plant and animal species which are absent from the Illinois River Section including false heather and rock spikemoss. Both of these plants form large mats that stabilize dune blowouts.

Western Forest--Prairie Division

Galesburg Section - The Galesburg Section is the area of the Western Forest-Prairie Division that lies north of the Illinois River valley. At the time of settlement, there were about equal amounts of forest and prairie in this section, with forests mainly along the tributaries to the Illinois River.

Carlinville Section - The Carlinville Section of this division is the land southeast of the Illinois River valley. Originally it was covered mostly by forest, with prairie accounting for about 12 percent of the area.

Middle Mississippi Border Division

Glaciated Section - The topography of this area was modified by the pre-Illinoian and Illinoian glaciation stages. Limestone underlies most of this section and may often be seen in cliffs along the river bluffs.

Driftless Section - This area of the state is apparently unglaciated. It has many sinkholes and sinkhole ponds.

Southern Till Plain Division

Effingham Plain Section - The Effingham Plain Section is a relatively flat plain drained by the Kaskaskia River. It originally was mostly prairie. Post oak flatwoods are characteristic of the uplands. Sanctuaries for the greater prairie chicken exist in this section.

Mt. Vernon Hill Country Section - The Mt. Vernon Hill Country Section has a rolling, hilly topography. Upland forests covered most of this section in presettlement times.

Wabash Border Division

Bottomlands Section - The Bottomlands Section of this division encompasses the bottomland forests, sloughs, marshes and oxbow lakes in the floodplains of the Wabash River, Ohio River and their major tributaries. Bottomland forests are the main vegetation type with wet prairie and marshes associated with the sloughs.

Southern Uplands Section - The Southern Uplands Section contains the dry and mesic upland forests on the bluffs along the Wabash River. Some sandstone ravines support an unusual combination of plant species.

Vermilion River Section - The Vermilion River Section is characterized by rugged topography and the beech-maple forests in the ravines along the Vermilion River and its tributaries. The beech-maple forest represents a climax, deciduous forest type of the northeastern United States, which is found in Illinois only in the extreme eastern and southern portions.

Ozark Division

Northern Section - The Northern Section of the Ozark Division has limestone bedrock, caves, sinkholes and a unique combination of plants and animals. Plants found only in this section include stiff bedstraw and slender heliotrope. They grow on hill prairies or exposed limestone ledges.

Central Section - The Central Section of this division has sandstone bedrock. Its forest and other floral components are distinctive. Bradley's spleenwort and Harvey's buttercup are species only in this section of this division.

Southern Section - The Southern Section has significantly different bedrock, topography, glacial history, forest composition and animals from the other two sections in the division. Black spleenwort and shortleaf pine are two of the unique plants found here.

Lower Mississippi River Bottomlands Division

Northern Section - The Northern Section is distinguished by its forest composition, presence of wet prairies and marshes and absence of coastal plain trees. The bottomlands of this section near East St. Louis are called the "American Bottoms."

Southern Section - The bottomland forests of the Southern Section contain a greater number of tree species than those found in the Northern Section and also include some swamp species typical of the coastal plain.

Shawnee Hills Division

Greater Shawnee Hills Section - The Greater Shawnee Hills Section has sandstone bedrock and distinctive plants. Filmy fern and French's shooting star are unique plants in this section. French's shooting star may have grown in this area since before glacial times. Ravines and ledges along streams support plant species, like club mosses and sphagnum, which are normally found in more northern areas of the Midwest.

Lesser Shawnee Hills Section - The Lesser Shawnee Hills Section has limestone bedrock and sinkholes. The fluorspar deposits in Hardin County are world famous. Caves are common in the limestone bluffs. Wild mock orange is a distinctive plant.

Coastal Plain Division

Cretaceous Hills Section - This section is named for the fossil beds from the Cretaceous period that are found in the rolling hills here. Also present in the hills are sands, gravels and clays.

Bottomlands Section - The Bottomlands Section encompasses bottomland forests, oxbow lakes, sloughs and rivers. This area includes the remnants of the once vast bald cypress and tupelo gum swamps along the rivers.

Scientific Names Used on the Illinois' Natural Divisions Poster
| Glaciation in Illinois | References for Illinois Natural Divisions Poster

Return to Illinois' Natural Divisions

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