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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

42. Northwestern Glaciated Plains

42a. Missouri Coteau Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

42a. Missouri Coteau

42b. Collapsed Glacial Outwash

42c. Missouri Coteau Slope

42d. Northern Missouri Coteau

42e. Southern Missouri Coteau

42f. Southern Missouri Coteau Slope

42g. Ponca Plains

42h. Southern River Breaks

42i. Glaciated Dark Brown Prairie

  The Northwestern Glaciated Plains ecoregion marks the westernmost extent of continental glaciation. The youthful morainal landscape has significant surface irregularity and high concentrations of wetlands. The rise in elevation along the eastern boundary defines the beginning of the Great Plains. Land use is transitional between the intensive dryland farming on Ecoregion 46i to the east and the predominance of cattle ranching and farming to the west on the Northwestern Great Plains (43).

JPG - Wetlands and hills
High wetland density and hill and swale topography typify the landscape of the Northwestern Glaciated Plains.

Like closely-spaced ocean swells, the rolling hummocks of the Missouri Coteau enclose countless wetland depressions or potholes. During its slow retreat, the Wisconsinan glacier stalled on the Missouri escarpment for thousands of years, melting slowly beneath a mantle of sediment to create the characteristic pothole topography of the Coteau. The wetlands of the Missouri Coteau and the neighboring prairie pothole regions are the major waterfowl production areas in North America. Land use on the coteau is a mixture of tilled agriculture in flatter areas and grazing land on steeper slopes.


Area (square miles): 9122

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 1650-2100/10-300

Glaciated. Hummocky, rolling stagnation moraine. Stream drainage absent or uncommon. Numerous pothole wetlands between mounds of glacial till.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Thick glacial till over Tertiary sandstone and shale in the north and Cretaceous Pierre Shale in the south.


Order (Great Groups)
Mollisols (Haploborolls, Argiaquolls, Argiborolls, Calciborolls)

Common Soil Series
Barnes, Buse, Parnell, Svea Williams, Bowbells, Zahl

Temperature/Moisture Regimes
Frigid/Udic, Ustic


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

Mean Temp. - Jan. min/max; July min/max, (°F)

Potential Natural Vegetation

Western wheatgrass, bluestem, needleandthread, green needlegrass. Prairie cordgrass, northern reedgrass near wetlands.

Land Use and Land Cover

Cattle grazing on steeper land mixed with tilled agriculture of hay and spring wheat. Native prairie remaining on unbroken rangeland. Wetlands provide wildlife habitat.

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