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Brule and Paint River Drumlins

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About the Brule and Paint River Drumlins

The Brule and Paint River Drumlins are a region in northeastern Wisconsin extending into the interior western part of Michigan's upper peninsula.

This region is characterized by its extensive patterns of eskers and drumlins, ridges of glacial origins, oriented northeast-southwest and occurring at regular intervals in a repetetive pattern. These ridges alternate with depressions filled with wetlands and, in some cases, lakes. The density of lakes is relatively high and becomes higher in the west. Soils here tend to have a cap of fine silt and tend to be less acidic than soils in the surrounding region. Soils range from cobbly silt-loams to poorly-drained loams in the depressions. The climate is a humid continental climate with a short growing season of around 87 days, and extremely cold winters; there is little moderating effect from the great lakes.

Original vegetation here was mostly hardwood forest. The fine-textured, more neutral pH soils supported higher plant diversity and a greater portion of hardwoods than most of the surrounding regions. The dominant forest type was a different variant of northern hardwoods forests: sugar maple (Acer saccharum) was common, but American beech (Fagus grandifolia) only occasional, especially in the north. The forests here contained a greater portion of white ash (Fraxinus americana), American elm (Ulmus americana), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and American basswood (Tilia americana) than in surrounding regions with sandier soils. Inter-drumlin depressions mostly supported black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina), opening to bogs and wet meadows at the centers on the wetter sites. Better-drained, but still wet, depressions supported black ash (Fraxinus nigra), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and American elm (Ulmus americana). There was an almost complete absence of fire in this region; windthrow was the dominant disturbance, and was especially common and often large-scale.

This area is mostly forested, much of which is utilized for logging. There are is small amount of pastureland on the broader ridges. There was historically a small amount of iron mining in the area around Iron River, MI. The forest composition has changed somewhat; balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is now common, together with American elm, in areas where inter-ridge depressions are drained by streams, and northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) can be found around the edges of the wet depressions. The forests here have have retained more-or-less similar composition to their original makeup, including the unique species that are more common here than their surroundings. This area is mostly sparsely populated, although there are numerous small towns. There are some small areas of public protected land.

This region is bordered to the west by the Northern Wisconsin Highlands Lakes Country, which has a higher density of lakes and sandier soil. However, this border is a gradual transition that involves overlap: the west of this region has a higher density of lakes, and the east of that region still has some of the drumlins. To the north lies the Winegar Dead Ice Moraine, an area of stagnation moraine with abundant kettle ponds. To the east lies the Wisconsin/Michigan Pine Barrens, an area with extensive pine barrens due both to sandy outwash and bedrock outcroppings with thin soil. To the south, this region borders the Upper Wolf River Stagnation Moraine, and there is also a small border to the southwest with the hillier Perkinstown End Moraines.

References

1. Omernik, J.M., Bryce, S.A. "Michigan: Level III and IV Ecoregion Descriptions / Mapping Issues", US EPA (2007) Web.

2. Albert, Dennis A. "Regional landscape ecosystems of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin: a working map and classification.", General Technical Report NC-178, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN (1995) Web.