Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

MIDDLE ILLINOIS RIVER

Rolling open meadow in the Middle Illinois River RRA, photo by Mike Jeffords, INHS Historically, the Illinois River Valley has been one of the most important migration areas for waterfowl in North America. During spring and fall migrations, waterfowl are attracted to the abundance of food available in the shallow bottomland lakes, sloughs, marshes, ponds, and forests. Early accounts of the area describe vast numbers of waterfowl. The Illinois River Valley has been greatly altered by drainage of the wetlands and sedimentation of the river. Aquatic vegetation has disappeared from the lakes and the numbers of some waterfowl species began to decline in the 1950s.

 

Map of Site
Land Cover Map of Site

SIZE: 575,515 acres; 899 square miles

LOCATION: Central Illinois, the Illinsoi River from Peoria to Florence; Brown, Cass, Fulton, Mason, Morgan, Pike, Peoria, Schuyler, Scott, and Tazewell counties.

The Middle Illinois River RRA incorporates floodplain and upland landscapes along the Illinois River from just below Peoria to Florence. The Middle Illinois River site is the third largest of the RRAs. The boundary was modified for this site to include watersheds with sand prairies. Significant amounts of state land occur in this RRA.

The plant communities of the sand prairies are a mix of native tallgrass species and plants more commonly associated with the western U.S. The sand deposited by glacial meltwaters favors survival of plants that can tolerate dry and sometimes shifting environments. One such plant is the prickly pear cactus. This native cactus is found in several habitats in Illinois, but is most abundant in sand prairies.

The Illinois chorus frog is restricted to sandy floodplains, and the sand prairies adjacent to the Illinois River provide ideal habitat. In Illinois, this frog is found exclusively in three widely separated regions. A state-threatened species, it is dependent on the protection of its habitat. The chorus frog has the unusual habit of burrowing into the sand with its front feet (the vast majority of frogs use their hind feet). It also feeds underground, a behavior unknown in any other frog species. The Illinois chorus frog can only be seen in the spring, when it comes out of the ground to mate.

LANDCOVER: Cropland is the predominant land cover, accounting for half the land area in this RRA. Approximately 22% of the Middle Illinois River RRA is either upland or bottomland woods. This site has the third highest acreages of nonforested wetlands and bottomland forest.

NATURAL AREAS : Thirty-eight Natural Area sites are located in the RRA, totalling the sixth highest percentage of natural area acreage among the RRAs. Prominant natural features include sand prairies, hill prairies, springs, seeps, savannas, ponds, lakes, woods, and habitats for herons, eagles, and the Illinois Mud Turtle. Forty-three percent of the total acreage occurs at Meredosia Refuge Natural Area.

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS : There are no BSS streams within this RRA.

HERITAGE SITES : There are 134 Heritage sites within this RRA. Nine significant community types, 19 plant species, 22 animal species occur here. Three large forest tracts and three rookeries are located in this RRA.

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND : Approximately 9% (53,129 acres) of the RRA is in state (5.5%) or federal (3.7%) ownership. This site ranks first for acreage in state ownership. There are nine state holdings--one state park, five conservation areas, one forest, and two fish and wildlife areas. Emiquon, Chautauqua and Meridosia National Wildlife Refuges are federal lands located here.

NATURE PRESERVES : The six Nature Preserves located in the Middle Illinois River RRA protect sand prairie, hill prairie, wet prairie, and savanna communities. The largest is the Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak Nature Preserve, an approximately 1,400 acre site of sand prairie, sand savanna, and sand forest.

NATURAL DIVISIONS : The site encompasses five natural divisions. Most of the RRA is comprised of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River Bottomlands (42%), Illinois and Mississippi River Sand Areas (26%), and Western Forest-Prairie (24%) Divisions.

 


SUMMARY OF SITE CHARACTERISTICS: SIZE, BIOLOGIC RESOURCES, AND PUBLIC LANDS

 

Total Acreage

    575,515

Natural Areas

    Acreage

13,474

    Number

38
Biologically Significant Stream Mileage 0
Natural Heritage Sites 134
State Land

    State Parks

1

    State Conservation Areas

5

    State Forests

1

    State Fish & Wildlife Areas

2

    Acreage

31,630

    Percentage of RRA

5.5
Federal Land

    Acreage

21,499

    Percentage of RRA

3.7

 


 

LANDCOVER

    Acres

    % of RRA

Upland forest 89,583.27 15.57
Bottomland forest 37,775.68 6.56
Wetland 5,911.26 1.03
Grassland 95,049.35 16.52
Cropland 298,972.80 51.95
Urban/Built/up 6,095.51 1.06
Water 42,106.16 7.32
Total 575,494.03 100.01

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURAL AREAS INVENTORY SITES

    Acres

Anderson Lake Site 2
Barkhausen Woods 45
Bath Lake Springs 4
Beardstown Fimbristylis Site 1
Beardstown Marsh 468
Beardstown Railroad Prairie 3
Bluff Springs Hill Prairie 5
Bluff Springs Sand Pond lt;1
Burns Sand Prairie 59
Clear Lake Heron Colony 1,405
Duck Club Road 7
Duck Soup Woods 38
Eckard Railroad Prairie 3
Frederick Road Site 14
Henry Allan Gleason 98
Knuppel Woods 134
Long Branch Sand Prairie 110
Manito Prairie 13
Matanzas Prairie 158
Matanzas Sand Prairie 33
Meredosia Hill Prairie <1
Meredosia Refuge 5,735
Oakford Spiderwort Site 5
Pike County Conservation Area Eagle Roost 2,263
Quiver Prairies 200
Rice Lake Eagle Roost 443
Rountree Nature Preserve 27
Sand Lake 72
Sand Prairie--Scrub Oak 1,530
Sand Ridge Savanna 58
Sand Ridge State Forest Illinois Mud Turtle 5
Sanganois Landing 12
Snicarte Bulrush Area *
Snicarte Sand Area 3
Snyder Hill Prairie 5
Sparks Ponds 227
Spring Lake Seeps 186
White Oak Creek Woods 105
* = point location, map not available

 


 

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS
None

 


 

NATURAL HERITAGE CATEGORIES
Middle Illinois River

    Occurrences

    Types/Species

Communities

    Wetland

2 1

    Forest

3 2

    Savanna

3 1

    Prairie

9 5
Threatened and Endangered Animals

    Amphibian

9 1

    Bird

29 13

    Fish

2 1

    Mammal

4 3

    Reptile

5 2

    Insect

3 2
Threatened and Endangered Plants

    Plant-Dicot

30 13

    Plant-Monocot

28 6
Geological Feature

    Geological Feature

1 1
Other

    Forest Block >500 Acres

3 1

    Rookery

3 1

 


 

STATE AND FEDERAL LANDS
State Parks

    Acres

    Dickson Mounds

26
State Conservation Areas

    Anderson Lake

2,096

    Louis H. Barkhausen

1,176

    Rice Lake

5,249

    Sanganois

8,779

    Spring Lake

1,785
State Forests

    Sand Ridge

7,428
State Fish and Wildlife Areas

    Banner Marsh

4,203

    Pike County (Ray Norbut)

888
Federal Land

    Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

4,809

    Emiquon NWR -Approved Boundary

9,859

    Emiquon NWR -Current Holdings

92

    Meredosia National Wildlife Refuge

6,739

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURE PRESERVES

    Acres

Henry Allen Gleason Nature Preserve 93
Long Branch Sand Prairie 92
Manito Prairie 25
Matanzas Prairie 38
Meredosia Hill Prairie <1
Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak 1,377

 


 

NATURAL DIVISIONS

    Acres in RRA

    % of RRA

    % of Division

Upper Mississippi R and Illinois R Bottomlands 238,406 41.4 20.2
Illinois R and Mississippi R Sand Areas 151,631 26.33 9.4
Western Forest-Prairie 136,059 23.6 3.0
Middle Mississippi Border 39,876 6.9 2.5
Grand Prairie 9,543 1.7 0.1



Illinois Natural History Survey

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