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Why Is Indiana So Flat?

Why Is Indiana So Flat?

Have you ever driven through Central or Northern Indiana? If so, you may have noticed that these parts of the state are pretty flat - and we think how they got that way is pretty interesting. Let’s discover exactly why parts of Indiana are so flat with some help from our friends at The Nature Conservancy.

Heads up: If you’ll be traveling to visit relatives for Thanksgiving or another upcoming holiday, this is some pretty cool information that you can impress your family with on your drive (wink, wink).

Thick sheets of ice (AKA glaciers)

Thousands of years ago (about 16,000), during the Great Ice Age, glaciers covered Indiana. For hundreds of years, these massive bodies of ice slowly moved across the landscape, progressing about a foot a day (glaciers aren’t exactly known for their speed). The thick glacial ice extended outward and then retreated several times, carving the land over time. 

Once the glaciers melted, the dirt, rocks, and sand (known as glacial till) that were picked up by the ice were all that was left behind. This till filled any hills or valleys that previously existed, leaving the land flat. Today this central area is known as Tipton Till Plain

In the northern part of the state, glaciers retreated more quickly and left moraines (glacial till ridges), which were still mostly flat. This is why flat plains dominate the landscape throughout the central and northern regions of Indiana.

What about Southern Indiana?

You’ll notice that we’ve only mentioned the central and northern parts of the state being flat. That’s because the landscape in the southern part of Indiana is vastly different from the rest of the state. Rather than being characterized by flat plains, this region is hilly with groups of forests. 

The glaciers of the last ice age did not extend to southern Indiana. However, when the glaciers from further north melted, the flood waters made their way to the south and carved the rivers and hills that dominate this part of the state today. The Mitchell Plain and the Wabash Lowland are two examples of areas in southern Indiana that were created by this natural phenomenon.

Isn’t it amazing that glaciers that existed so many years ago made such a huge impact on present-day Indiana’s landscape? When you get on the road to head to holiday celebrations in the upcoming weeks, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for what you see out your car window!

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Why's" on the blog