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Central Sand Ridges

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About the Central Sand Ridges

The Central Sand Ridges are an area in central Wisconsin; this area mostly refers to the region referred to as Waupaca in some documents.

This region consists of a pitted outwash plain, with numerous glacial features including lakes, eskers, drumlins, ice contact deposits, ground moraine, and terminal moraines. Topography here is variable but averages quite hilly, from gently rolling in the areas of ground moraine to steep on the terminal moraines. The bedrock here is mostly sandstone. Soils here are mostly sandy, with some loamy sands and sandy loams. Although most of these soils range from well-drained to excessively well-drained and drought-prone, there are some small, local areas of poorly-drained mineral and organic muck soils.

This region was originally covered mostly in large expanses of oak forest, with the fire- and drought-tolerant jack oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) dominant on the driest sites, and white oak (Quercus alba), black oak (Quercus velutina), and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) also common, especially in savannas. There were some areas of tallgrass prarie, as well as sedge meadows. Fire was common.

Nowadays this region has been developed for agriculture, which makes heavy use of irrigation to offset the drought-prone nature of the soils. There is significant forest cover, but it is mostly either on more rugged uplands or poorly-drained bottomlands. Due to fire suppression, jack oak has decreased here, but white, black, and bur oaks are still common; the portion of closed-canopy forest is probably higher today than prior to European settlement. The clearing of vegetation has resulted in the stripping of topsoil by wind in many areas. This region is mostly rural and sparsely-populated; there are no large cities; the largest city is Wapaca, followed by Wautoma and Montello.

This region is bordered to the west by the flatter, more fire-prone Glacial Lake Wisconsin Sand Plain, to the north by the less fire-prone Upper Wolf River Stagnation Moraine. The north of this region borders the Green Bay Till and Lacustrine Plain to the east, and south of that there is a small border to the east with the Lake Michigan Lacustrine Clay Plain. South of this there is a border to the southeast with the Southeastern Wisconsin Savannah and Till Plain, also less fire-prone. The southernmost tip of this region borders the Blufflands and Coulees of the Driftless Area to the south; this is a hilly region that escaped glaciation.