region K Area 89 larger picture

Wisconsin Central Sands

Wisconsin Driftless Section of the Central Lowland Province of the Interior Plains.

Entire area in Wisconsin

Total Land Area 3,420 square miles (8,860 square kilometers).

Towns/cities include:
Black River Falls, Friendship, Mauston, New Lisbon, Stevens Point, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, and Wisconsin Rapids

The Ho-Chunk Nation (formerly the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe) does not have a defined reservation, but the the majority of Ho-Chunk tribal lands are within this area and the Nation’s center of government is in Jackson County.

The Meadow Valley Wildlife Area and the Necedah Wildlife Refuge are completely within this MLRA.


This area is underlain dominantly by weak Cambrian sandstone and interbedded sandstone and shale formations locally named Wonewoc, Eau Claire, and Mount Simon. Some areas are underlain by Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks. Some were most likely glaciated between 25,000 and about 2,400,000 years ago, and others probably were not glaciated.

Although this part of Wisconsin is often referred to as the 'Driftless Area,' it still has remnants of very old glacial drift and also has outwash and glacial lacustrine sand from the more recent Wisconsin Glaciation. Glacial Lake Wisconsin covered more than 1,825 square miles (4,730 square kilometers), most of which was in this area.

An area of isolated buttes and mesas, valley trains, flood plains, and extensive wetlands. The southern and eastern parts of the area are on a large glacial lake and outwash plain, and the northern and western parts are mostly on low hills and pediments.

Topography -

Elevation is 880 feet (270 meters) in the southern part of the area, with a gradual slope to about 1,110 feet (340 meters) in the northeastern part of the area. The maximum elevation is about 1,400 feet (425 meters), on Saddle Mound in Jackson County.


The average annual precipitation in this area is 30 to 33 inches (760 to 840 millimeters).
Most of the rainfall occurs as convective thunderstorms during the growing season.
The annual snowfall ranges from about 35 to 50 inches (90 to 125 centimeters).
The average annual temperature is 42 to 45 degrees F (6 to 7 degrees C).
The freeze-free period averages about 150 days and ranges from 135 to 165 days.

Major Hydrologic Unit Areas

Name Code Extent*
Wisconsin (0707) 70%
Upper Mississippi-Black-Root (0704) 24%
Chippewa (0705) 6%

* this is the percent of area drained by each named hydrologic unit

The Chippewa, Black, and Wisconsin Rivers, major tributaries of the Mississippi River, drain this area.


Estimated withdrawls in this MLRA:
Public supply surface water 10.4% ground water 12.5%
Livestock surface water 0.8% ground water 4.1%
Irrigation surface water 0.7% ground water 69.5%
Other surface water 2.1% ground water 0%

Total Average Daily Withdrawls:
Total daily withdrawls average 145 million gallons per day (550 million liters per day)
86% ground water sources
14% surface water sources

Surface water and ground water is abundant but moderate precipitation inadequate for crops and pasture on sandy soils. Dry years result in serious crop reduction yields. Irrigation widely used for high-value crops.

Drainage of soils on lowlands needed for field crops.

The ground water comes from aquifers in unconsolidated sand and gravel deposits overlying Cambrian sandstone or from the sandstone itself. Probable yields from wells in sand and gravel aquifers range from 100 to more than 1,000 gallons per minute (380 to more than 3,785 liters per minute).

Wells in glacial till on moraines yield 50 to 1,000 gallons per minute (190 to 3,785 liters per minute). Wells in the sandstone bedrock typically yield 100 to 800 gallons per minute (380 to 3,030 liters per minute).

The water is a calcium-magnesium-bicarbonate type that is moderately hard or hard and ranges from 80 to 220 parts per million (milligrams per liter) calcium carbonate. It is of good quality, containing less than 300 parts per million (milligrams per liter) total dissolved solids.

The sand and gravel deposits lie over Precambrian crystalline rocks in the northern part of this area. The water from these deposits has less total dissolved solids and is less hard than the water that lies over sandstone in the southern part of the area. Minor water use problems are caused by hardness and locally by high concentrations of iron produced by reducing conditions in marshes and swamps.

The regional flow of ground water is towards the Wisconsin River.


  • Soils temperature regime is dominantly mesic.
  • Soils temperature regime can be frigid in the soils in low-lying depressions that are wet for long periods and in areas on the northern fringe of this area.
  • Udic or aquic soil moisture regime and dominantly have mixed or siliceous mineralogy.
  • Generally soils are moderately deep to very deep, well drained to very poorly drained, and sandy to clayey.
    In much of the area, loess occurs in thin layers or does not occur at all. On some flood plains silty alluvium is derived from the thicker mantles of loess on soils in the adjacent MLRAs.

    Dominant Soils:

  • Alfisols
  • Entisols
  • Histosols
  • Spordosols
  • Mollisols occur to a much lesser extent.
  • Great Group Series Location
    Haplorthods Ludington and Humbird series formed dominantly in sandy and loamy residuum on hills and pediments, generally in the northern and western parts
    Epiaquods Fairchild and Merrillan series see above
    Quartzipsamments Boone and Tarr series formed in sandy slope alluvium and sandy residuum and in sandy pedisediment
    . . . . . . . . . . . .
    Udipsamments Plainfield series formed dominantly in outwash sand, lacustrine sand, silt, clay and organic material in glacial lakes, outwash plains, and valley trains in the eastern and southern parts of the area
    Psammaquents Newlang series see above
    Hapludalfs Wyeville series see above
    Haplosaprists Dawsil series see above
    Udipsamments Algansee and Scotah series formed in the flood plains throughout the area
    Fluvaquents Kalmarville series see above

    Fauna and Flora

    This area includes pine savannas and oak barrens. Jack pine, northern pin oak, black oak, and white oak are the dominant trees. The extensive wetlands in the area support red maple, aspen, paper birch, and speckled alder.

    Some of the major wildlife species in this area are whitetailed deer, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, fox and gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits, ducks, and geese. Small populations of prairie chickens inhabit the area. Red fox, gray fox, coyote, muskrat, raccoon, and beaver are the main furbearers.

    Land Use

    20% - Cropland - private
    6% - Grassland - private
    0% - - Federal
    53% - Forest - private
    5% - - Federal
    6% - Urban development - private
    4% - Water - private
    0% - - Federal
    6% - Other - private

    Most of this area is forested. The forestland supports an active pulp and timber industry.

    In the agriculture areas, cash-grain crops, dairy farms, livestock grazing, irrigated vegetables, Christmas trees and cranberries. Irrigated areas produce potatoes, snap beans, peas or sweet corn. are a primary use Christmas trees . , soybeans and vegetable crops (potatoes, snap beans and peas) and forage and feed grains for dairy cattle and other livestock are principal crops. Cranberries are grown on some wet soils.

    Dams in two areas on the Wisconsin River have formed the Petenwell Flowage and Castle Rock Lake. Because of the abundance of water, the thousands of acres of State and county forests, and many large public hunting grounds, hunting and fishing are popular activities.

    Major soil resource management concerns are wind erosion, maintenance of the content of organic matter and productivity of the soils and soil moisture management.

    The important conservation practices on cropland include systems of crop residue management (especially no-till systems that eliminate the need for summer fallow tillage), cover crops, windbreaks, vegetative wind barriers, wind stripcropping, and nutrient management.

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