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Caseyville Hills

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About the Caseyville Hills

The Caseyville Hills are a roughly semicircular region of the Interior River Valleys and Hills located entirely within western Kentucky.

This region, which was never glaciated, consists of moderately-dissected hills, with some sandstone cliffs, interspersed with nearly-level bottomlands. The bedrock here is a mix of sandstone, siltstone, shale, and coal, and in a few places, limestone. This is covered with thin loess and alluvium. Soils formed on gentler slopes here tend to be formed on loess, and more nutrient-rich, whereas soils on steeper slopes are rockier and more poorly-developed. The climate is humid and subtropical, with weakly seasonal precipitation, peaking in early May, and a drier season peaking in late August. The climate and soils are such that this region is able to support closed canopy forest, but where most plant communities on uplands are shaped by drought stress.

Originally this region was mostly forested, mostly in oak-hickory forest, occasionally opening into savanna. Most uplands were a bit drier and supported post oak (Quercus stellata), southern red oak (Quercus falcata), white oak (Quercus alba), black oak (Quercus velutina), and shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). More mesic upland sites supported American beech (Fagus grandifolia), tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), and northern red oak (Quercus rubra). The driest slopes and ridges supported sparser growth of oak, with grassy openings. The composition of bottomland forests in this particular region is not as well-known, but it was likely similar to the more widespread bottomland forests in the rest of the interior river valleys, with trees including overcup oak (Quercus lyrata), pin oak (Quercus palustris), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), pecan (Carya illinoinensis), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and red maple (Acer rubrum).

Nowadays this region has extensive forest, but also significant pastureland and a small amount of cropland; agriculture here produces mostly livestock and hay, with some soybeans, corn, tobacco, and wheat. Agriculture is almost exclusively limited to the bottomlands. The region is also utilized for logging and oil extraction, with some gas extraction and coal mining. This region is mostly sparsely populated, but it does contain some small towns. A few areas of extensive bottomland forest remain, and there are narrow riparian buffers along most of the rivers and streams, but most of the remaining forests are on the uplands.

This region is surrounded to the northeast, east, south, and southwest, by the Crawford-Mammoth Cave Uplands, a region that has narrower valleys and much more limestone and karst topography. This region surrounds, to the west, north, and east, the lower, flatter, and more agriculturally-utilized Green River-Southern Wabash Lowlands. There is also a very small border at the west with the Green River-Southern Wabash Lowlands along the Ohio river.

References

1. Woods, A.J., Omernik, J.M., Martin, W.H., Pond, G.J., Andrews, W.M., Call, S.M, Comstock, J.A., and Taylor, D.D. "Ecoregions of Kentucky (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2002) Web.