Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

EMBARRAS RIVER

Forested floodplain in the Embarras River RRA, photo by Mike Jeffords, INHS A 100-mile stretch of the midsection of the Emabarras River is designated as a Biologically Significant Stream. The extensive sand-and-gravel substrate of the midsection of the river provides habitat for a number of rare species, such as the harlequin darter, eastern sand darter, bigeye shiner, and blue sucker. Mussel diversity is high and historically the river has supported eleven state-threatened or state-endangered species.

Map of Site
Land Cover Map of Site

SIZE: 447,925 acres; 700 square miles

LOCATION: East-central Illinois; Champaign, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Jasper, Lawrence, and Richland counties

The Embarras River RRA includes the entire length of the river from the headwaters south of Champaign-Urbana to its confluence with the Wabash River near Lawrenceville. The Embarras River itself is the predominant natural resource responsible for this area's inclusion in the Resource Rich Area inventory. Rich species diversity and a wide variety of habitats such as gravel bars, gravel-sand raceways, sandbars, riffles, and deep pools are the outstanding features of the river, particularly the middle sections. The area is one of the most agricultural among the RRAs. The Embarras River RRA shares common boundaries with the Upper Wabash River and Southern Till Plain RRAs.

Millions of prairie chickens existed in Illinois in the mid to late 1800s. In the spring of 1994, the native population numbered about 50. Two sanctuaries were established in east-central Illinois to provide grassland habitat for the remaining birds. The restored grassland ecosystem has benfitted other rare grassland birds as well, including Henslow's sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, dickcissel, upland sandpiper, short-eared owl, and northern harrier.

LANDCOVER : Cropland occupies 69% of the land area at this site. The Embarras River RRA has the second highest cropland acreage and the second highest percentage of cropland. Approximately 15% of the RRA is wooded. Nonforested wetland resources are relatively low.

NATURAL AREAS : Fifteen Natural Areas cover 5,009 acres, or approximately 1%, of this RRA. These sites include prairie chicken habitat, marshes, aquatic features, and hill prairies.

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS : This site ranks second in terms of BSS stream mileage with 112.5 miles of the Embarras River so designated.

HERITAGE SITES : There are 50 Heritage sites within this RRA including five community types, three plant species, and 14 animal species.

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND : State land consists of three state parks; no federal land occurs in this RRA.

NATURE PRESERVES : Significant natural features in the three Nature Preserves that occur here are marsh, prairie, bottomland forest, old growth forest, and grasslands that support prairie chickens and other grassland-dependant species.

NATURAL DIVISIONS: This RRA traverses three Natural Divisions--Grand Prairie (40%), Southern Till Plain (39%), and Wabash Border (21%).

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

Total Acreage

    447,925

Natural Areas
Acreage 5,009
Number 15
Biologically Significant Stream Mileage 112.5
Natural Heritage Sites 50
State Land

    State Park

3

    State Conservation Areas

0

    State Forests

0

    State Fish & Wildlife Areas

0

    Acreage

3,226

    Percentage of RRA

0.7
Federal Land

    Acreage

0

    Percentage of RRA

0.0

 


 

LANDCOVER

    Acres

    % of RRA

Upland forest 55,777.59 12.45
Bottomland Forest 14,086.30 3.14
Wetland- nonforested 1,160.49 0.26
Grassland 52,677.86 11.76
Cropland 310,970.20 69.43
Urban-Built Up 9,040.50 2.02
Water 4,204.43 0.94
TOTAL 447,917.37 100.00

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURAL AREAS INVENTORY SITES

    Acres

Center School Geological Area 6
Chauncey Marsh 720
Embarras River 934
Embarras River -Camargo 480
Five-Mile Hill Prairie 5
Hillside Marsh 7
Hutton Geological Area 3
Jasper County Prairie Chicken Habitat 1,094
Lawrenceville Airport 1,389
Sargent's Woods 95
Steber's Woods 37
Stevens Hill Prairie 7
Stoddard Hill Prairie 9
Walnut Point 219
Water Works Hill Prairie 4

 


 

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS

    Miles

Embarras River, Lake Charleston to Jasper/Richland 80.0
Embarras River, Rte 36 to Little Embarras River 32.5

 


 

NATURAL HERITAGE CATEGORIES
Communities

    Occurrences

    Types/Species

    Floodplain Forest

1 1

    Wetland

2 2

    Forest

2 1

    Prairie

4 1
Threatened and Endangered Animals

    Bird

7 4

    Fish

4 2

    Reptile

2 1

    Insect

1 1

    Mollusk

16 6
Threatened and Endangered Plants

    Plant-Dicot

4 2

    Plant-Monocot

5 1

    Geological Feature

    Geological Feature

2 1
 

 


 

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND
State Parks

    Acres

    Fox Ridge

1,544

    Sam Parr

1,153

    Walnut Point

529
State Conservation Areas 0
State Forests 0
State Fish and Wildlife Areas 0
Federal Land 0

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURE PRESERVES

    Acres

Chauncey Marsh 116
Jasper Co. Prairie Chicken Sanctuary 53
Upper Embarras Woods 68

 


 

NATURAL DIVISIONS

    Acres in RRA

    % of RRA

    % of Division

Grand Prairie 180,445 40.3 1.4
Southern Till Plain 173,344 38.7 2.4
Wabash Border 94,137 21.0 5.4

 


 




Illinois Natural History Survey

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

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