region M Area 106 larger picture

Nebraska and Kansas Loess-Drift Hills

Most of area within the Dissected Till Plains Section of the Central Lowland Province of the Interior Plains.
The southern tip is in the Osage Plains Section of the same province and division.

Area includes portions of the following states:
52% in Nebraska
48% in Kansas

Total Land Area 10,920 square miles (28,295 square kilometers).

Towns/cities include:
Beatrice, and Lincoln, Nebraska;
Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas.

The Iowa Sac and Fox, Kickapoo, and Potawatomi Indian Reservations are in the part of this area in Kansas.

Part of the Iowa Sac and Fox Reservation is in Nebraska.

The Homestead National Monument is west of Beatrice, Nebraska.


Paleozoic sandstone, shale, and limestone units are exposed in a few road cuts and in the walls of valleys along the major streams on the east side of the area, near the bluffs along the Missouri River. Limestone and shale (clay) quarries are in this area.

This area is a dissected glacial drift plain. Ridgetops are broad and smooth, and slopes are nearly level to strongly sloping. Stream valleys are bordered by relatively narrow bands of hilly and steep slopes. Valley floors are typically narrow, except along the larger rivers and their primary tributaries.

Loess covers the surface of almost all of the uplands in this area. Glacial drift underlies the loess. Alluvial clay, silt, sand, and gravel are deposited in all of the stream and river valleys. The alluvial deposits can be extensive in the major river valleys.

Topography -

Elevation ranges from 980 to 1,650 feet (300 to 505 meters), increasing from east to west. Local relief is mainly 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters).

Some of the larger valley floors are 80 to 160 feet (25 to 50 meters) or more below the level of the adjacent uplands.


The average annual precipitation in most of this area is 28 to 40 inches (710 to 1,015 millimeters).
Most of the rainfall occurs as high-intensity, convective thunderstorms during the summer.
The average annual temperature is 50 to 55 degrees F (10 to 13 degrees C).
The freeze-free period averages about 195 days and ranges from 175 to 215 days.

Major Hydrologic Unit Areas

Name Code Extent*
Kansas (1027) 51%
Missouri-Nishnabotna (1024 ) 32%
Platte (1020) 17%

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

The Little Nemaha River and the North Fork of the Big Nemaha River flow into the Missouri River, which is just east of the part of this area in Nebraska. Salt-Wahoo Creeks flow through Lincoln and Wahoo and on into the Platte River in the northern part of the area.

The Big Blue River flows through Beatrice, Nebraska, and on into the part of this area in Kansas. The Big Blue joins the Black Vermillion River at Tuttle Creek Lake in the southern end of the MLRA, in Kansas.

The Soldier and Delaware Rivers also are in the part of the MLRA in Kansas.


Estimated withdrawls in this MLRA:
Public supply surface water 6.5% ground water 18.7%
Livestock surface water 1.3% ground water 2.5%
Irrigation surface water 11.4% ground water 31.9%
Other surface water 13.6% ground water 14.1%

Total daily withdrawls average 485 million gallons per day (1,835 million liters).
67% Ground water sources
33% Surface water sources

The supply of both surface and ground water is limited in this area. Many streams flow only in direct response to rainfall. The surface water in this area is generally of good quality, but it typically is not used for drinking because of the variability of the supply.

Shallow wells in glacial drift and in alluvium in stream valleys supply water for domestic and livestock needs on most farms. This water primarily contains calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate and is very hard. The level of total dissolved solids varies considerably in the water in the glacial drift.

The level of total dissolved solids varies considerably in the water in the glacial drift. The water in the alluvial deposits has a median level of 390 parts per million (milligrams per liter) total dissolved solids. In some areas deep wells in glacial drift provide very hard water that contains more than 700 parts per million (milligrams per liter) total dissolved solids.

Many communities and households obtain water from the Dakota Formation. This water is very hard and has a median level of 840 parts per million (milligrams per liter) total dissolved solids. The public water supply for Lincoln, Nebraska, is pumped from alluvium along the Platte River, almost 30 miles east of the city.


  • Mesic soil temperature regime.
  • Udic soil moisture regime.
  • Mixed or smectitic mineralogy.
  • Dominant Soils:

  • Mollisols
  • Alfisols
  • Entisols
  • The soils are very deep and range from well drained to moderately well drained and loamy or clayey.

    Great Group Series Location
    Hapludolls Kennebec series formed in alluvium on flood plains
    Judson series formed in colluvium on footslopes and alluvial fans
    Marshall series formed in loess on uplands
    Argiudolls Aksarben and Wymore series formed in loess
    Burchard, Morrill, Pawnee, and Shelby series formed in till
    Martin series formed in colluvium and/or residuum on uplands.
    Udifluvents Nodaway series formed in alluvium on flood plains.
    Udorthents Steinauer series formed in till on uplands.
    Hapludalfs Yutan and Otoe series formed in loess on uplands and stream terraces
    Malmo series formed in till on uplands

    Fauna and Flora

    This area supports grassland vegetation characterized by mid and tall grasses. Big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass, Indiangrass, porcupinegrass, and sideoats grama are the dominant species on silty soils in the uplands. Clayey soils in the uplands support a similar plant community but have a higher percentage of switchgrass and have some wildrye.

    Green ash, hackberry, oak, boxelder, black walnut, and maple trees grow along streams and intermittent drainageways.

    Some of the major wildlife species in this area include whitetailed deer, raccoon, opossum, tree squirrel, pheasant, bobwhite quail, and mourning dove.

    Land Use

    62% - Cropland - private
    22% - Grassland - private
    1% - - Federal
    6% - Forest - private
    5% - Urban development - private
    2% - Water - private
    2% - Other - private

    Wheat and corn are important cash crops, but grain sorghum, soybeans, and alfalfa and other hay crops are grown on a large percentage of the area. The cropland is more extensive on the less sloping soils that formed in loess than on other soils.

    Pastures of native grasses are more extensive on the strongly sloping to steep soils that formed in glacial till than on other soils.

    Native woodland is confined to narrow bands bordering drainageways and streams and to some nearly level, wet soils on bottom land.

    Major resource concerns included water erosion and maintenance of the content of organic matter in the soils. The resource concerns on pasture and rangeland are plant productivity, health, and vigor; noxious and invasive plants; and inadequate wildlife habitat.

    Conservation practices generally include high-residue crops in the cropping system, systems of crop residue management (such as no-till, strip-till, and mulch-till systems), gradient terraces and grassed waterways, underground outlets, contour farming, conservation crop rotations, and nutrient and pest management.

    Conservation practices on rangeland and pasture generally include prescribed grazing, brush management, management of upland wildlife habitat, and proper distribution of watering facilities.

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