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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

43. Northwestern Great Plains

43a. Missouri Plateau Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

43a. Missouri Plateau

43b. Little Missouri Badlands

43c. River Breaks

43d. Forested Buttes

43e. Sagebrush Steppe

43f. Subhumid Pierre Shale Plains

43g. Semiarid Pierre Shale Plains

43h. White River Badlands

43i. Keya Paha Tablelands

43j. Moreau Prairie

43k. Dense Clay Prairie

  The Northwestern Great Plains ecoregion encompasses the Missouri Plateau section of the Great Plains. It is a semiarid rolling plain of shale, siltstone, and sandstone punctuated by occasional buttes and badlands. Native grasslands persist in areas of steep or broken topography, but they have been largely replaced by spring wheat and alfalfa over most of the ecoregion. Agriculture is limited by erratic precipitation patterns and limited opportunities for irrigation.

GIF - Strip mining for coal
Sedimentary rocks that contain lignite coal underlie much of ecoregion 43a. Lignite within 100 feet of the surface is recoverable by strip mining.

On the Missouri Plateau, west of the Missouri River, the landscape opens up to become the "wide open spaces" of the American West. The topography of this ecoregion was largely unaffected by glaciation and retains its original soils and complex stream drainage pattern. A mosaic of spring wheat, alfalfa, and grazing land covers the shortgrass prairie where herds of bison, antelope and elk once grazed.


Area (square miles): 20000

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 1750-3300/50-500

Unglaciated. Moderately dissected level to rolling plains with isolated sandstone buttes.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Tertiary sandstone, shale and some coal. In South Dakota, Ludlow, Fox Hills, and Fort Union Formations; in North Dakota, Ludlow, Cannonball, Slope, Bullion Creek, and Sentinel Butte Formations.


Order (Great Groups)
Mollisols (Haploborolls, Calciborolls, Argiborolls, Natriborolls), Entisols (Ustorthents, Ustipsamments)

Common Soil Series
Vebar, Chama, Amor, Williams, Rhoades, Belfield, Cabba, Flasher, Reeder, Regent, Parshall, Golva, Zahl

Temperature/Moisture Regimes


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

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

Potential Natural Vegetation

Blue grama, wheatgrass/needlegrass association, little bluestem, prairie sandreed.

Land Use and Land Cover

Dryland farming and cattle grazing. Spring wheat a predominant crop with acreageof barley, oats, and sunflowers. native areas consist of mixed grasses.

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