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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Ecoregions of
North Dakota
South Dakota

46. Northern Glaciated Plains

46m. Big Sioux Basin Level IV Ecoregion


North Dakota Ecoregions

South Dakota Ecoregions

46a. Pembina Escarpment

46b. Turtle Mountains

46c. Glacial Lake Basins

46d. Glacial Lake Deltas

46e. Tewaukon Dead Ice Moraine

46f. End Moraine Complex

46g. Northern Black Prairie

46h. Northern Dark Brown Prairie

46i. Drift Plains

46j. Glacial Outwash

46k. Prairie Coteau

46l. Prairie Coteau Escarpment

46m. Big Souix Basin

46n. James River Lowland

46o. Minnesota River Priaire

  The Northern Glaciated Plains ecoregion is characterized by a flat to gently rolling landscape composed of glacial drift. The subhumid conditions foster a grassland transitional between the tall and shortgrass prairie. High concentrations of temporary and seasonal wetlands create favorable conditions for duck nesting and migration. Though the till soil is very fertile, agricultural success is subject to annual climatic fluctuations.
The Big Sioux Basin is a trough penetrating the core of the Prairie Coteau (46k). Its topography was affected by pre-Wisconsinan glaciation; later advances of the Wisconsin glacier diverged around the basin. In contrast to the neighboring Prairie Coteau (46k), the basin has a well-developed drainage network. There is more tilled land in the Big Sioux basin due to the relative paucity of wetlands and the gentler topography.


Area (square miles): 1539

Elevation/Local Relief (feet): 1625-1990/20-200

Only lightly glaciated. Erosional, rather than depositional landscape. Rolling, with incised stream drainage network, few wetlands.


Surficial Material and Bedrock
Glacial till over Cretaceous Pierre Shale


Order (Great Groups)
Mollisols (Haploborolls)

Common Soil Series
Brookings, Kranzburg, Vienna, Lismore

Temperature/Moisture Regimes


Precipitation - Mean annual (inches)

Frost Free - Mean annual (days)

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

Potential Natural Vegetation

Tallgrass prairie: big and little bluestem, switchgrass, and indiangrass, sideoats grama, lead plant. Riparian vegetation: willows and cordgrass north; more hardwoods south.

Land Use and Land Cover

Extensively tilled for small grains, corn, sunflowers, and soybeans.

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