Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

DES PLAINES RIVER 

Wetland in the Des Plaines River RRA, photo by Mike Jeffords, INHS The habitat of the Hine's emerald dragonfly is a rare and localized wetland type found in Illinois only along the Des Plaines River. This dragonfly is found in shallow marshes, wet meadows, and small streams where calcareous water emerges between the limestone bedrock and overlying glacial till. Currently found at only a few sites in Illinois and Wisconsin, the Hine's emerald dragonfly is a state endangered species. In Illinois, the largest threat to this dragonfly is habitat loss due to development.

Map of Site
Land Cover Map of Site

SIZE: 43,470 acres; 68 square miles

LOCATION: Northeastern Illinois, southwestern Chicago metropolitan area; Cook, DuPage, and Will counties.

The Des Plaines River valley from just southwest of Chicago's Midway Airport to Joliet is remarkable for its glacial history and its resultant landscape. Vertical cliffs were carved by torrential meltwaters from the last glaciers. Where the dolomite (a type of limestone) is exposed, a harsh environment supports a number of hardy plants. Low gravel ridges parallel to the river stay dry while the floodplain stays wet for long periods. The fens, marshes, and wet prairies that occur in low spots add to the variety of habitats. Dolomite prairies, like those found here, have almost completely disappeared from the Midwest.

The Des Plaines River RRA is a small, highly urbanized site which forms a narrow corridor along the river from just west of Chicago to Joliet. Relatively high percentages of upland woods and nonforested wetlands occur in this site. Important natural features include prairie, savanna, river bluff, cliff, wetlands, floodplain and upland forest.

LANDCOVER :This site is one-third urban and one-third upland woods. The Des Plaines River RRA ranks third in percentage of upland woods and second in percentage of nonforested wetlands, although actual acreages are relatively low. Larger wooded tracts are located in county forest preserves, especially at the confluence of the Calumet Sag Channel and the Des Plaines River. Nonforested wetlands are concentrated along the river.

NATURAL AREAS: Eleven Natural Areas occur in this RRA. They are predominantly woods or prairie sites and range in size from three to 675 acres.

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAM: There are no BSS streams at this site.

HERITAGE SITE: There are 61 Heritage Sites representing 15 significant community types, eight plant species, ten animal species, one large forest tract, and a rookery.

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND: There are no state or federal lands at this site.

NATURE PRESERVES: There are nine Nature Preserves. Cap Sauers Holdings, at 1,548 acres, is one of the largest preserves in northeastern Illinois. Principal natural features found in the Nature Preserves are river bluffs, ravine forests, springs, sedge meadows, marshes, fens, prairies, savannas, floodplain, and upland woods. Some of the natural features represent the last remaining examples in northeastern Illinois.

NATURAL DIVISION: This RRA lies almost entirely within the Northeastern Morainal Natural Division.


 

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

Total Acreage 43,470
Natural Areas

    Acreage

2,115

    Number

11
Biologically Significant Stream Mileage 0
Natural Heritage Sites 61
State Land

    State Parks

0

    State Conservation Areas

0

    State Forests

0

    State Fish & Wildlife Areas

0

    Acreage

0

    Percentage of RRA

0.0
Federal Land

    Acreage

0

    Percentage of RRA

0.0

 


 

LANDCOVER

    Acres

    % of RRA

Upland forest 14,695.45 33.81
Bottomland forest 1,247.40 2.87
Wetland-nonforested 2,072.71 4.77
Grassland 3,400.80 7.82
Cropland 3,985.66 9.17
Urban/Built-up 15,795.73 36.34
Water 2,273.22 5.23
Total 43,470.97 100.01

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURAL AREAS INVENTORY SITES

    Acres

Black Partridge Woods 80
Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center 354
Lockport Prairie 246
Material Services Prairie 73
O'Hara Woods 51
Palos Fen 6
Paw Paw Woods 410
Romeoville Prairie 203
Sagawau Canyon 3
Santa Fe Prairie 14
Waterfall Glen 675

 


 

BIOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT STREAMS
None

 


 

NATURAL HERITAGE CATEGORIES
Communities Occurrences

    Types/Species

Floodplain Forest 2 2
Wetland 5 4
Forest 4 2
Prairie 9 6
Primary 1 1
Threatened and Endangered Animals

    Bird

10 6

    Mammal

1 1

    Reptile

4 2

    Insect

6 1
Threatened and Endangered Plants

    Plant-Dicot

9 5

    Plant-Monocot

8 3
Geological Feature
Other
Forest Block >500 Acres 1 1
Rookery 1 1

 


 

STATE AND FEDERAL LAND

    Acres

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

 


 

ILLINOIS NATURE PRESERVES

    Acres

Black Partridge Woods 70
Cap Sauers Holdings 1,548
Cranberry Slough 985
Lockport Prairie 269
O'Hara Woods 45
Palos Fen 22
Paw Paw Woods 116
Romeoville Prairie 100
Sagawau Canyon 9

 


 

NATURAL DIVISIONS

    Acres in RRA

    % of RRA

    % of Division

Northeastern Morainal 43,115 99.2 1.7
Grand Prairie 355 0.8 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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