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Wisconsin Geography: The Land
Geography and Landforms of WisconsinFind an overview of Wisconsin geography, topography, geographic land area, and major rivers. Access Wisconsin almanac furnishing more details on the state geography, climate and weather, elevation, land area, bordering states, and other statistical data.
Although Wisconsin is not a coastal state, it is largely defined
by water. Its eastern border is the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The
northwestern border is Lake Superior. The Mississippi River forms the
border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, as well as the border between
Wisconsin and Iowa. A tributary of the Mississippi, the St. Croix River,
forms the rest of the western border. Only the border between Wisconsin
and Illinois to the south is dry.
Wisconsin is made up of these Physiographic Areas
Boreal Hardwood Transition
As the name implies, this area is a transition zone between the mixed hardwood forest to the south and the boreal forest to the north. Northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are in this physiographic area, as is much of southern Ontario and a small area of southeast Manitoba. The Great Lakes are a prominent ecological force in this area, affecting microclimates and forest community composition. These forest communities are a heterogeneous matrix with various oaks, maples, birch, and pines representing the southern element and spruces, tamarack, and balsam fir of boreal origin. Aspen is a common early successional species throughout.
Upper Great Lakes Plain
The Upper Great Lakes Plain covers the southern half of Michigan, northwest Ohio, northern Indiana, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and small portions of southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa. Glacial moraines and dissected plateaus are characteristic of the topography. Broadleaf forests, oak savannahs, and a variety of prairie communities are the natural vegetation types. A "Driftless Area" was not glaciated during the late Pleistocene and emerged as a unique area of great biological diversity.
The Lower Peninsula is fairly level but some low rolling hills can be found in the south. To the north this changes to a northern tableland of hilly belts. The lowest point in Michigan, along the shore of Lake Erie is found in the Lower Peninsula.
Wisconsin Landscape and Landforms:
Lake Superior Lowland
This small flat plain area extends about 5 to 20 miles inland. It slopes gradually upwards toward the south from the shores of Lake Superior.
Eastern Ridges and Lowlands (Great Lakes Plains)
The gently rolling hills of the Eastern Ridges and Lowlands extend from Green Bay south to Illinois. It is the richest agricultural region of Wisconsin where ice-age glaciers deposited earth over limestone ridges.
Northern Highland or Superior Upland
This area makes up about one third of the state. It reaches it's highest elevation in the north, and slopes downward to the south. It has hundreds of small lakes and heavily forested hills. The highest point in Wisconsin is Timms Hill.
The Central Plain is south of the Northern Highland and curves across the central part of the state. The Wisconsin River is located in the southern portion of this region. This is an area of buttes and mesas, unusual for this part of Wisconsin.
The Western Upland is located to the west of the Central Plain and is made up of limestone and sandstone bluffs along the Mississippi River. It extends along the Mississippi River to the border of Illinois. The southwestern portion is an area that is steeply sloped ravines and winding ridges.
Forty-eight of the States are in the single region between Canada and Mexico; this group is referred to, with varying precision and formality, as the continental or contiguous United States, and as the Lower 48. Alaska, which is not included in the term contiguous United States, is at the northwestern end of North America, separated from the Lower 48 by Canada. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. The capital city, Washington, District of Columbia, is a federal district located on land donated by the state of Maryland.
(Virginia had also donated land, but it was returned in 1847.) The United States also have overseas territories.