Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

CACHE RIVER 

Tall cliffs along the Mississippi River in the Cache River RRA, photo by Mike Jeffords, INHS At the extreme southern tip of Illinois, the land flattens and is poorly drained. Southern flora is present in this area, the northernmost extent of the coastal plain that stretches to the Gulf of Mexico. Swamps, dominated by bald cypress (some of the largest and oldest trees in Illinois) and tupelo, are reminiscent of Louisiana bayous. The Heron Pond-Little Black Slough Nature Preserve is a significant natural area with high-quality swamp and floodplain forest as well as upland forest and glade communities.

Map of Site
Land Cover Map of Site

SIZE: 443,616 acres; 693 square miles

LOCATION: Southern Illinois along the Cache River; Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, and Union counties.

The Cache River RRA is located at the southern tip of Illinois. The upper reach flows through the hills of the Ozark plateau; the lower Cache flows through flatter coastal plain where drainage is slow and wetlands become more abundant. Unique features include bald cypress-tupelo gum swamps and several species associated with the southern U.S. The Cache River RRA shares a common border with the Illinois Ozarks RRA; the large, contiguous forests that occur along the boundary are split into the two RRAs.

Significant natural features that represent forest, wetland, and aquatic habitats are found at Horseshoe Lake, an old oxbow of the Mississippi River. Near-virgin woods of beech, sugar maple, swamp chestnut oak, and American elm grow on the island in the middle of the lake. Bald cypress, tupelo, swamp cottonwood, willow, and buttonbush are found in the shallow water. Several interesting and rare species are known from here, including the spotted gar, pugnose minnow, green treefrog, mole salamander, broad-banded water snake, green water snake, prothonotary warbler, red-shouldered hawk, big-eared bat, and rice rat.

The green treefrog is one of the most colorful frogs in North America. Its bright green-to-olive coloration protects it from predators as it perches on vegetation in swamps, floodplain sloughs, and marshes. In Illinois, the green treefrog is limited to the extreme southern tip of the state.

LANDCOVER : The landcover is fairly evenly divided among three categories--cropland (32%), grassland (29%), and upland woods (27%). In terms of percentage of the site, the Cache River RRA ranks fourth for grassland, fifth for upland woods, and sixth for bottomland woods. This site has the eighth highest acreage of nonforested wetlands.

NATURAL AREAS : Sixty-three Natural Areas totalling 18,444 acres are located in this RRA. This RRA ranks third in number of Natural Areas and fourth in acreage of Natural Areas. Significant features include caves, springs, barrens, ponds, lakes, swamps, woods, and geological features. The largest Natural Areas are Heron Pond-Little Black Slough (6,613 acres) and the Lower Cache River Swamp (6,561 acres).

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS : Six stream segments totalling 53 miles have been designated as BSS. Horseshoe Lake and Lake Creek support a number of species that are extremely rare in Illinois.

HERITAGE SITES : There are 298 Heritage occurrences, the second highest number among the RRAs. There are 17 community types, 41 plant species, and 43 animal species represented. Seven large forest tracts and two rookeries are located here.

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND : The total acreage of public land in this RRA is 65,665 acres, or 15% of the land area. There are three state parks and two state conservation areas. The majority of public land is federally owned and consists of Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Shawnee National Forest.

NATURE PRESERVES : Eight Nature Preserves are located in the Cache River RRA. Principal natural features include glades, upland forests, floodplain forests, bluffs, ravines, ponds, and cypress-tupelo swamps.

NATURAL DIVISIONS : The Natural Divisions of the Cache River RRA are the Coastal Plain (58%), Shawnee Hills (35%), and Ozarks (7%).

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

Total Acreage

    443,616

Natural Areas

    Acreage

18,444

    Number

63
Biologically Significant Stream Mileage 52.8
Natural Heritage Sites 298
State Land

    State Parks

3

    State Conservation Areas

2

    State Forests

0

    State Fish & Wildlife Areas

0

    Acreage

11,924

    Percentage of RRA

2.7
Federal Land

    Acreage

53,741

    Percentage of RRA

12.1

 


 

LANDCOVER

    Acres

    % of RRA

Upland forest 117,758.90 26.55
Bottomland forest 35,327.44 7.96
Wetland-nonforested 2,508.85 0.57
Grassland 130,500.20 29.42
Cropland 143,676.50 32.39
Urban/Built-up 7,187.96 1.62
Water 6,646.45 1.50
TOTAL 443,606.30 100.01

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURAL AREAS INVENTORY SITES

    Acres

Archimedes Cave 28
Badlands Geological Area 4
Big Brushy Ridge 145
Black Powder Hollow Geological Area <1
Britten Spring 5
Cache Valley Geological Area 5
Cave Creek Barrens 8
Cedar Bluff 330
Cedar Bluff Cave 5
Chestnut Hills 674
Cooper Creek Hollow Mine *
Cypress Pond 499
Deer Pond 154
Diswood Site *
Draper's Bluff 587
Dusky Salamander Sites *
Ethridge Limestone Glade 56
Firestone Creek Cave 29
Fort Massac Area 21
Goreville Interchange Geological Area 13
Halesia 36
Horseshoe Forest 231
Horseshoe Lake 351
Horseshoe Lake Nuttall's Oak Site <1
Horseshoe Lake South 3
Horseshoe Lake State Conservation Area *
Indian Point 108
Jug Spring *
Lake Creek 59
Lick Creek Geological Area 14
Lino Laird Ravine 72
Little Black Slough--Heron Pond Area 6,613
Lower Cache River Swamp 6,561
Magazine Mine Hollow *
Mason Cave 12
Mermet Lake East 50
Mermet Lake Flatwoods 64
Mermet Swamp 47
Mounds West Geological Area 9
Ohio River-Hillerman 108
Olmsted Geological Area 6
Open Pond 37
Opossum Trot Trail 49
Post Creek Cutoff Geological Area 4
Post Creek Cutoff Site 57
Provo Cemetery 59
Rich's Cave System 17
Roaring Spring Area 59
Round Bluff 59
Scout Cave 232
Sielbeck Forest Tract 206
Sielbeck Q Ditch Area 40
Silverbell Site 1
Teal's Cave 4
Thalia Site 1
Thebes Area 20
Thornton Ravine 1
Unity Area 29
Weaver's Woods 32
West Vienna Woods 25
White Hill Cave 4
White Hill Quarry *
Wolf Creek Area 599
* = point location, map not available

 


 

BIOLOGICALLY-SIGNIFICANT STREAMS

    Miles

Cache River, Big Creek to Karnak 8.1
Horseshoe Lake 22.0
Lake Creek 3.7
Limekiln Slough 5.5
Ohio River, L&D 52 to Metropolis 2.4
Ohio River, L&D 53 to Mound City 10.9

 


 

NATURAL HERITAGE CATEGORIES
Communities Occurrences

    Types/Species

    Floodplain Forest

10 3

    Lake

3 1

    Wetland

11 2

    Cave

7 2

    Forest

10 5

    Prairie

1 1

    Primary

7 3
Threatened and Endangered Animals

    Amphibian

19 2

    Bird

37 15

    Fish

7 5

    Mammal

51 8

    Reptile

8 3

    Crustacean

9 4

    Mollusk

10 6
Threatened and Endangered Plants

    Lichen

1 1

    Plant-Dicot

66 24

    Plant-Monocot

20 14

    Plant-Fern/Fern Ally

2 2
Geological Feature

    Geological Feature

10 1
Other

    Forest Block >500 Acres

7 1

    Rookery

2 1

 


 

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND
State Parks

    Acres

    Ferne Clyffe

1,162

    Fort Defiance

62

    Fort Massac

137
State Conservation Areas

    Horseshoe Lake

8,160

    Mermet Lake

2,404
State Forests 0
State Fish and Wildlife Areas 0
Federal Land

    Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge

34,497

    Shawnee National Forest Proclamation Boundary

66,908

    Shawnee National Forest Ownership

19,244

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURE PRESERVES

    Acres

Cave Creek Glade 40
Chestnut Hills 272
Halesia 19
Heron Pond-Little Black Slough 2,131
Horseshoe Lake 579
Mermet Swamp 47
Round Bluff 56
Section 8 Woods 322

 


 

NATURAL DIVISIONS

    Acres in RRA

    % of RRA

    % of Division

Coastal Plain 256,009 57.8 55.4
Shawnee Hills 155,257 35.0 17.1
Ozarks 31,480 7.1 7.7
Major Water Bodies 525 0.1 0.0



Illinois Natural History Survey

1816 South Oak Street, MC 652
Champaign, IL 61820
217-333-6880
cms@inhs.illinois.edu

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