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Flatlandish facts about Illinois

Tiffany Mosig - Monday, August 06, 2018

If you’ve lived in Illinois you’ve probably been called ‘flatlander’ at least once. But just like there’s more to Wisconsin than cheese, there’s a lot more to Illinois than miles and miles of flat land. If everyone knew that we were held underwater, bulldozed, swamped on and stomped on to get fabulous farmland unobstructed by hills and valleys, they’d appreciate flatlanders.



“Brachiopods for dinner again?”


A half billion years ago the land of Lincoln was ocean floor. There were no trees, no flowers, no birds. Only prehistoric seafood. Weather was hot all the time because Illinois was near the equator. So we shifted north to the 40th parallel. What could be wrong with winter?


“We can’t build a tollway on this.”


As the ocean receded 175 million years later, the land became a muddy swamp with 100 ft trees and hawk-sized dragonflies. We were patient though. And within 165 million more years, wind and rain brought birds, flowers and solid ground.


By about 8,000 BC, Ice Age glaciers had scraped and pushed to help bring us the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. Mastodons* that had lumbered through our neighborhoods eventually disappeared into the soil with prehistoric sediment and forests to become Illinois sandstone, limestone, shale and coal.


So fellow earthlings, next time you poke fun at a ‘flatlander,’ remember that this state endured a remarkable geological history. Thanks to the forces of nature that gave us these rich flat lands, Illinois is now a top producer of food and ethanol, and a leader in wind-generated renewable energy.


*If you’d like to see a mastodon bone recovered from the Chain of Lakes area in the 1920s, visit the Lake County Discovery Center in Wauconda before August 31st. Next year it will move to the Lake County Forest Preserve Building in Libertyville as the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.

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