Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

MISSISSIPPI - LOWER ROCK RIVER 

Prairie in bloom in the Mississippi - Lower Rock River RRA, photo by Mike Jeffords, INHS Mussel harvesting in the rich mussel beds of the uper Mississippi River has traken place since the early 1900s. Mussel shells were sold to the button industry until the widespread use of plastics after World War II. Since the 1960s, mussels have been harvested for export to Japan, where the shells are cut up and ground into round pellets and implanted into oysters to produce cultured pearls. Mussels are no longer abundant. Of the eighty species native to Illinois, more than half are threatened, endangered, extirpated, or extinct.

Map of Site
Land Cover Map of Site

SIZE: 457,449 acres; 715 square miles

LOCATION: Northwestern Illinois along the Mississipi and lower Rock Rivers; Bureau, Henry, Lee, Mercer, Rock Island, and Whiteside counties

The Mississippi - Lower Rock River RRA includes major rivers, bottomlands, upland forests, prairies, and river bluffs. This RRA has a relatively high total acreage of Natural Areas due primarily to Mississippi River sites.

Bald eagles once commonly nested along the large rivers in Illinois. Declines in the continental population were reflected in the small number of eagles observed in Illinois from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. Although nesting bald eagles are rare in Illinois, important wintering sites for bald eagels are found along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Eagles which nest further north migrate to this area to feed on the fish below the dams where the turbulent water remains open even in the coldest winters. One important winter roost is just upstream from the Quad Cities at the Elton E. Fawks Bald Eagle Refuge Nature Preserve.

LANDCOVER: Cropland (54%) and grassland (18%) cover almost three-fourths of the land area. This RRA ranks 14th in percentage of bottomland woods, and 23rd in percentage of upland woods. Overall, woods accounts for almost 13% of the land area. This site has the fourth highest acreage and the ninth highest percentage of nonforested wetlands.

NATURAL AREAS : This RRA ranks third among the RRAs in terms of the Natural Area acreage. Four Mississippi River sites account for the majority of Natural Area acreage. The natural features found in the 17 Natural Areas in this RRA include prairies, marshes, aquatic features, and forests.

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS : Six BSS designations account for over 44 miles of BSS streams within this site. Three BSS segments occur on the Mississippi River and one on the Rock River.

HERITAGE SITES : This RRA has 74 Heritage occurrences. Of the ten significant community types, seven are prairies. Four plant species, 17 animal species, and six rookeries are found in this site.

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND : Within this RRA there are two state parks and one state fish and wildlife area. Federal land along the Mississippi River totals 15,694 acres.

NATURE PRESERVES : Three Nature Preserves occur within the site. Elton E. Fawks Bald Eagle Refuge is the largest (164 acres) and serves as an important winter roosting site for bald eagles. Black Hawk Forest is one of the few remaining areas representative of the narrow, forested bluff lines which characterizes the Middle Mississippi Border Natural Division.

NATURAL DIVISIONS : Seven natural divisions comprise this RRA. The Upper Mississippi and Illinois River Bottomlands is the predominant Natural Division (40%), followed by the Grand Prairie Division (22%) and the Middle Mississippi Border (20%).


 

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

Total Acreage 457,449
Natural Areas

    Acreage

18,590

    Number

17
Biologically Significant Stream Mileage 44.2
Natural Heritage Sites 74
State Land

    State Parks

2

    State Conservation Areas

0

    State Forests

0

    State Fish & Wildlife Areas

1

    Acreage

1,493

    Percentage of RRA

0.3
Federal Land

    Acreage

15,694

    Percentage of RRA

3.4

 


 

LANDCOVER

    Acres

    % of RRA

Upland forest 39,064.63 8.54
Bottomland Forest 18,722.26 4.09
Wetland-nonforested 5,834.99 1.28
Grassland 84,511.77 18.47
Cropland 246,919.00 53.98
Urban-Built Up 33,937.74 7.42
Water 28,449.17 6.22
TOTAL 457,439.56 100.00

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURAL AREAS INVENTORY SITES

    Acres

Black Hawk Forest 93
Coon Creek 58
Elton Fawks Eagle Refuge/Illiniwek Forest 706
Gorham Hill Prairie 11
Lyndon -Agnew Railroad Prairie 32
McNeal Marsh 47
Mississippi River - Andalusia Slough 6,455
Mississippi River - Cordova 2,034
Mississippi River - Moline 2,297
Mississippi River - Muscatine 5,106
New Boston Marsh 1,147
Nussbaum Prairie 41
Pearsall Sand Prairie 13
Port Byron Geological Area 10
Rock River-Carr Island 530
Sandy Town Cemetery Prairie 4
Wheelock Railroad Prairie 6

 


 

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS

    Miles

Coon Creek 7.5
County Ditch #1 5.6
Mississippi River, Andalusia Slough 10.6
Mississippi River, Sylvan Slough/Arsenal Island 4.9
Mississippi River, rm 501-509, Rock Island Co. 8.5
Rock River, Lyndon to Indian Island 7.1

 


 

NATURAL HERITAGE CATEGORIES
Communities Occurrences

    Types/Species

    Wetland

2 1

    Forest

3 2

    Prairie

10 7
Threatened and Endangered Animals

    Bird

13 5

    Fish

7 4

    Mammal

4 2

    Reptile

2 1

    Mollusk

22 5
Threatened and Endangered Plants

    Plant-Dicot

2 2

    Plant-Monocot

1 1

    Plant-Fern/Fern Ally

1 1
Geological Feature 1 1
Other

    Rookery

6 1

 


 

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND
State Parks

    Acres

    Hennepin Canal Parkway

325

    Prophetstown

60
State Conservation Areas 0
State Forests 0
State Fish and Wildlife Areas

    Big Bend

1,108
Federal Land

    Mark Twain NWR -Keithsburg Division

1,440

    Pool No. 16

8,305

    Pool No. 17

5,267

    Upper Mississippi River Fish & Wildlife Refuge

681

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURE PRESERVES

    Acres

Black Hawk Forest 97
Elton E. Fawks Bald Eagle Refuge 164
Lyndon Prairie 59

 


 

NATURAL DIVISIONS Acres in RRA

    % of RRA

    % of Division

Upper Mississippi R and Illinois R Bottomlands 182,894 40.0 15.5
Grand Prairie 99,974 21.9 0.8
Middle Mississippi Border 90,877 19.9 5.8
Rock River Hill Country 35,157 7.7 2.3
Illinois R and Mississippi R Sand Areas 26,283 5.8 6.8
Major Water Bodies 19,551 4.3 1.8
Western Forest-Prairie 1,949 0.4 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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