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Cache River Wetlands


"This river is hidden," said a French adventurer credited with naming the Cache when he spotted its log-jammed mouth on the Ohio in 1702. His words are still true today as the natural features, the hidden treasures of the Cache, these remnants of its past, must be actively sought out to be experienced. The word cache comes from the French and means "something hidden, or stored." In Illinois, our Cache is a treasure trove of biological wonders and a wetland of international significance. The Cache River Basin crosses Southern Illinois, from the Ohio River on the east to the Mississippi River on the west, and is the prehistoric river valley of the Ohio. Referred to in the original United States Land Survey as "inaccessible and a drowned land," the basin marks the geographical point where the last invasion of the sea into the Midwest reached its northernmost limit, and lies only a few miles from the southernmost extent of the continental glaciers. The Cache Basin supports a diverse mixture of forests, grasslands, wetlands, shallow lakes and streams and is the northern limit for cypress-tupelo swamps in the Mississippi Valley. 

Post, S. and M. Jeffords. "Treasures of the Cache." The Illinois Steward,  June 2006, Vol. 15, No. 1.

Exemplary Ecosystem Services

Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion

Aesthetic/Cultural Heritage Value/Provisioning

Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)

Aquifer recharge

Storm abatement

Flood storage/mitigation

Carbon storage

Water quality improvement


Conservation Status and Threats

  • Conservation status

    RAMSAR DesignationCypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Cache River State Natural Area
  • Adjacent land use

    Agricultural (cropland, orchards, greenhouse)
  • Approximate natural buffer width

    > 100 ft
  • Other Information


  • Approximate size (ha):

    16,000+ acres
  • General wetland characterization:

    Inland Fresh Seasonally Flooded Basin/Flat, Inland Shallow Fresh Marsh, Inland Fresh Shrub Swamp, Inland Fresh Wooded Swamp
  • Adjacent water bod(ies)

  • Approximate stream order

    Cache River and Cypress Creek
  • Name of body of water

  • Surficial geology

    The Cache occupies the ancestral lake bed of the Ohio River. The land is mostly flat with river terraces along the southern edge.

  • Soils

    hydric and alluvial

Flora and Fauna

  • Dominant flora

    bald cypress, water tupelo, overcup oak, various species of duckweed
  • Unique flora

    red iris, American featherfoil, lizard's tail
  • Dominant fauna

    pileated woodpecker, prothonotary warbler, barn owl, extensive waterfowl, great white egrets
  • Rare fauna

    elephant stage beetle, unicorn beetle, diamondback watersnake, copperbelly watersnake


  • Heron-Pond-Cache1
  • Heron-Pond-Cache2
  • LowerCacheRiver

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