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Valparaiso-Wheaton Morainal Complex

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About the Valparaiso-Wheaton Morainal Complex

The Valparaiso-Wheaton Morainal Complex is a hilly region surrounding the Chicago Lake Plain; it includes some of the more distant parts within the Chicago city limits, and much of the city's suburbs and metro area, extending into northwestern Indiana.

The hilly topography here is of glacial origin; the landscape is studded with terminal moraines, kames, esker, and outwash plains. There are abundant small lakes and marshes, and the area lacks centralized drainage systems. Soils mostly formed on glacial drift; most soils are relatively fertile.

Prior to European settlement, the moraines here were covered in a mix of forest and prairie, with marshes and forests of swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) in poorly-drained areas. Prairies probably covered a little more than half of this region.

Nowadays, this region is moderately utilized for pastureland, and there is also extensive suburbanization closer to Chicago. Fire suppression, however, has also increased the forest cover on remaining sites. Lakes and woodlands are still common throughout. There are significant protected public lands here, including the Bartel Grassland Land and Water Reserve, various prairie and forest sites preserved as part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and numerous other preserves.

This region is bordered to the north by the Kettle Moraines, which has an even higher concentration of lakes, and along the lake there is a small border to the north with the Chiwaukee Prairie Region. Most of this region is bordered to the west and southwest by the flatter, more agricultural Illinois/Indiana Prairies, but in the east, it is bordered to the south by the Kankakee Marsh. At the far eastern end, it borders the Battle Creek/Elkhart Outwash Plain to the east.

References

1. Woods, A.J., Omernik, J.M., Pederson, C.L., Moran, B.C. "Level III and Level IV Ecoregions of Illinois", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC (2006) Web.

2. Woods, A.J, Omernik, J.M., Brockman, C.S., Gerber, T.D., Hosteter, W.D., Azevedo, S.H. "Ecoregions of Indiana and Ohio (Poster)", US Geological Survey (1998) Web.