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Wabash River Bluffs and Low Hills

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About the Wabash River Bluffs and Low Hills

The Wabash River Bluffs and Low Hills are a narrow, north-south region of bluffs and hills west of the Wabash river. This region consists of four discontinuous chunks separated by tributaries and their floodplains. The region is located almost entirely within Illinois, although the northernmost piece reaches slightly into Indiana at its eastern end.

This region consists of low bluffs. It is similar in some respects to the River Hills, Southern Ozarkian River Bluffs, and Karstic Northern Ozarkian River Bluffs, other regions of bluffs and hills along the Mississippi river to the west, not contiguous with this region, but it is lower in elevation and less rugged than these regions. Soils here tend to be derived from thick loess deposits, fine, wind-blown deposits that originated during the glacial periods.

In the early 19th century, this area was covered in dry upland forests with black oak (Quercus velutina) and various hickories as dominant trees, and mesic upland forests, with white oak (Quercus alba), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum) as dominant species. There were also some floodplain forests, and some mesic prairies.

This region has been cleared somewhat, but there is still more forest cover than in bordering bottomland regions, owing to this region's steeper topography. Forest cover is greatest on slopes and ravines, whereas agriculture dominates the flatter areas. This region produces corn, wheat, soybeans, and hay.

This region is bordered to the east by the Wabash-Ohio Bottomlands, which is lower, flatter, and more flood-prone, and has soils formed on alluvium (river deposits) rather than loess. It is bordered to the west by the Southern Illinoian Till Plain, a region that is higher elevation than this one, but mostly flatter. The southernmost section of this region is bordered to the south by the Northern Shawnee Hills, an unglaciated region with high cliffs and bluffs, and soils less suited to agriculture.

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.