Sangamon River

Sangamon River

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The Sangamon River is a principal tributary of the Illinois River
Illinois River
The Illinois River is a principal tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately long, in the State of Illinois. The river drains a large section of central Illinois, with a drainage basin of . This river was important among Native Americans and early French traders as the principal water route...

, approximately 246 miles (395.9 km) long, in central Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It drains a mostly rural agricultural
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 area between Peoria
Peoria, Illinois
Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River and the county seat of Peoria County, Illinois, in the United States. It is named after the Peoria tribe. As of the 2010 census, the city was the seventh-most populated in Illinois, with a population of 115,007, and is the third-most populated...

 and Springfield
Springfield, Illinois
Springfield is the third and current capital of the US state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County with a population of 117,400 , making it the sixth most populated city in the state and the second most populated Illinois city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area...

. The river is associated with the early career of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 and played an important role in the early white settlement of Illinois, when the area around was known as the "Sangamon River Country". The section of the Sangamon River that flows through Robert Allerton Park
Robert Allerton Park
The Robert Allerton Park is a 1,517 acre park, nature center, and conference center located near Monticello, Illinois on the upper Sangamon River...

 near Monticello
Monticello, Illinois
Monticello is a city in Piatt County, Illinois, United States. The population was 5,138 at the 2000 census, and 5,374 at a 2009 estimate. It is the county seat of Piatt County.-Geography:Monticello is located at ....

 was named a National Natural Landmark
National Natural Landmark
The National Natural Landmark program recognizes and encourages the conservation of outstanding examples of the natural history of the United States. It is the only natural areas program of national scope that identifies and recognizes the best examples of biological and geological features in...

 in 1971.

Description


The river rises from several short headstreams in southern McLean County
McLean County, Illinois
McLean County is a county in the U.S. state of Illinois. McLean County is included in the Bloomington–Normal, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 169,572, which is an increase of 12.7% from 150,433 in 2000. Its county seat is...

 that arise from a glacial moraine
Moraine
A moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris which can occur in currently glaciated and formerly glaciated regions, such as those areas acted upon by a past glacial maximum. This debris may have been plucked off a valley floor as a glacier advanced or it may have...

 southeast of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois
Bloomington-Normal, Illinois
Bloomington-Normal refers to the twin municipalities of Bloomington and Normal in McLean County, in Central Illinois. The combined population of the two communities in a special census in 2006 was 125,000.-Sports:...

. Part of the moraine is publicly owned as the Moraine View State Recreation Area
Moraine View State Recreation Area
The Moraine View State Recreation Area is a state park operated by the Department of Natural Resources of the U.S. state of Illinois. The 1,687 acre recreation area is located near Le Roy, Illinois....

. The river's course forms a large arc through central Illinois, first flowing east into Champaign County, Illinois
Champaign County, Illinois
Champaign County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 201,081, which is an increase of 11.9% from 179,669 in 2000.. It is the 10th most populous county in Illinois...

, south through Mahomet
Mahomet, Illinois
Mahomet is a village in Champaign County, Illinois, United States. The population was 7,258 at the 2010 census. Mahomet is located approximately ten miles west of Champaign at the junction of Interstate 74 and IL 47.-Geography:...

, then west through Monticello
Monticello, Illinois
Monticello is a city in Piatt County, Illinois, United States. The population was 5,138 at the 2000 census, and 5,374 at a 2009 estimate. It is the county seat of Piatt County.-Geography:Monticello is located at ....

 and Decatur
Decatur, Illinois
Decatur is the largest city and the county seat of Macon County in the U.S. state of Illinois. The city, sometimes called "the Soybean Capital of the World", was founded in 1823 and is located along the Sangamon River and Lake Decatur in Central Illinois. In 2000 the city population was 81,500,...

, then turning northwest to flow along the north side of Springfield
Springfield, Illinois
Springfield is the third and current capital of the US state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County with a population of 117,400 , making it the sixth most populated city in the state and the second most populated Illinois city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area...

. It receives Salt Creek
Salt Creek (Sangamon River Tributary)
Salt Creek is a major tributary to the Sangamon River, which it joins at the boundary between Mason and Menard County, Illinois. There are at least two other Salt Creeks in Illinois, Salt Creek , and in Effingham County, Illinois....

 at 40°7′33.24"N 89°49′30.36"W, approximately 25 miles (40.2 km) north-northwest of Springfield; then the river turns west, forming the southern boundary of Mason County with Menard and Cass counties. It joins the Illinois River from the east just north of Beardstown
Beardstown, Illinois
Beardstown is a city in Cass County, Illinois, United States. The population was 6,123 at the 2010 census. The public schools are in Beardstown Community Unit School District 15.-Geography:Beardstown is located at...

.


The Sangamon is impounded in Decatur to form Lake Decatur
Lake Decatur
Lake Decatur is a reservoir located in the city of Decatur, Illinois, east of downtown. The city and lake both share the name of U.S. Navy Commodore Stephen Decatur. The lake is above sea level. Lake Decatur has a watershed of 925 square miles spanning 7 counties...

, constructed in 1920–1922 to provide a water supply for Decatur. This lake, formed by damming the main stem of the river, with no control over upstream land uses, has had major problems with siltation and agricultural pollution. The lake often has excessive nitrate levels from agricultural runoff. Many times the city was forced to warn people not to allow babies to consume water in Decatur because of "blue baby syndrome", Methemoglobinemia
Methemoglobinemia
Methemoglobinemia is a disorder characterized by the presence of a higher than normal level of methemoglobin in the blood. Methemoglobin is an oxidized form of hemoglobin that has an increased affinity for oxygen, resulting in a reduced ability to release oxygen to tissues. The oxygen–hemoglobin...

. Decatur has now installed nitrate treatment to avoid this problem.

The upper Sangamon, between Mahomet and Monticello, runs along the face of a terminal moraine within the Lake Michigan Glacial Lobe, which ranges in age from 28,000 to 12,000 BP. During the glacial Woodfordian Substage (middle Wisconsin Stage), ice of the Lake Michigan Glacial Lobe advanced rapidly, leaving a terminal moraine parallel to the modern Sangamon River. The ice stagnated and melted behind this moraine, without the meltwater overtopping the terminal moraine. Along this stretch, the eastern part of the watershed of the Sangamon therefore consists of short creeks, two to three miles (3–5 km) in length, that drain the face of the moraine. This forms an asymmetric watershed typical of rivers formed along the face of a terminal moraine.

History



The river was home to many different groups of Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 in the centuries before the arrival of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

ans. The name of the river comes from a Pottawatomie word Sain-guee-mon meaning "where there is plenty to eat." In the 18th century, groups of the Kickapoo settled along the river. In the middle 18th century, the region near the river was the scene of a conflict between the Illini
Illiniwek
The Illinois Confederation, sometimes referred to as the Illiniwek or Illini, were a group of twelve to thirteen Native American tribes in the upper Mississippi River valley of North America...

 and Fox as part of the larger French and Iroquois Wars. French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 traders were active in the region throughout the middle 18th century when it was part of the Illinois Country
Illinois Country
The Illinois Country , also known as Upper Louisiana, was a region in what is now the Midwestern United States that was explored and settled by the French during the 17th and 18th centuries. The terms referred to the entire Upper Mississippi River watershed, though settlement was concentrated in...

.

The first U.S. settlers arrived in the region in the 1810s. In 1821, Elijah Iles built a log-framed store, the first commercial building in Springfield. Groups of Cumberland Presbyterians settled the river valley beginning in 1825, giving the region a distinctive culture identified and described at the turn of the 20th century by Edgar Lee Masters
Edgar Lee Masters
Edgar Lee Masters was an American poet, biographer, and dramatist...

.

Abraham Lincoln arrived with his family in the area in 1830 to settle a section of government land bisected by the river. The site, now Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorial
Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorial
The Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorial is a 162 acre state park located on the Sangamon River in Macon County near Harristown, Illinois, United States.-Home of Lincoln family:...

, was selected by Lincoln's father after the family had economic and land-title difficulties in Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

. The 21-year-old Lincoln helped build a 16 foot by 16 foot (4.8 m by 4.8 m) cabin along the river. The following year in 1831, he canoed down the river to homestead on his own near New Salem
New Salem (Menard County), Illinois
New Salem is the historically recreated townsite of Abraham Lincoln's, 19th century, frontier village in Menard County , Illinois, United States. During his 20s, in the 1830's, this was the homestead of the future U.S. President...

 in Menard County northwest of Springfield. Later that year he floated down the river with companions on a flatboat
Flatboat
Fil1800flatboat.jpgA flatboat is a rectangular flat-bottomed boat with Fil1800flatboat.jpgA flatboat is a rectangular flat-bottomed boat with Fil1800flatboat.jpgA flatboat is a rectangular flat-bottomed boat with (mostlyNOTE: "(parenthesized)" wordings in the quote below are notes added to...

 to the Illinois River
Illinois River
The Illinois River is a principal tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately long, in the State of Illinois. The river drains a large section of central Illinois, with a drainage basin of . This river was important among Native Americans and early French traders as the principal water route...

, and then following the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 to New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

.

Lincoln was impressed by the navigational difficulties on the river, especially during the arrival of the first steamship, the Talisman, a 150-ton steamer, up the river to Springfield in March 1832. Some sources state that Lincoln himself piloted the first steamship up the Sangamon to Springfield, accomplishing this feat with many men, almost as large as Lincoln, with axes to chop through whatever trees impeded the journey. More likely Lincoln acted as a guide and axeman. In later years, he told of taking a steamship three miles (5 km) into the prairie after losing his way on the Sangamon during a flood. During his first campaign for the Illinois General Assembly
Illinois General Assembly
The Illinois General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Illinois and comprises the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate. The General Assembly was created by the first state constitution adopted in 1818. Illinois has 59 legislative districts, with two...

 in 1832, he made navigational improvements on the river a centerpiece of his platform.

The river today



Despite its environmental problems, the Sangamon River is a focus of recreation for the people of Central Illinois. Key parklands along the river, moving from upstream to downstream, include Robert Allerton Park
Robert Allerton Park
The Robert Allerton Park is a 1,517 acre park, nature center, and conference center located near Monticello, Illinois on the upper Sangamon River...

, the parks bordering Lake Decatur, Rock Springs Conservation Area
Rock Springs Conservation Area
Rock Springs Conservation Area is a 1,300 acre park located 4 miles southwest of Decatur, Illinois. It is the largest parcel of parkland, in terms of surface area, in Macon County....

, Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park, Springfield's Carpenter Park
Carpenter Park
Carpenter Park is a 322-acre park on the north bank of the Sangamon River on the far north side of the city of Springfield, Illinois. The park is a listed Illinois Nature Preserve and has been designated as an Important Bird Area of Illinois...

, Lincoln's New Salem, Saybrook, and the Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area
Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area
Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area is an Illinois state park on in Cass, Schuyler, and Mason County, Illinois, United States....

.

The river was mentioned in Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens is an American singer-songwriter and musician born in Detroit, Michigan. Stevens first began releasing his music on Asthmatic Kitty, a label co-founded with his stepfather, beginning with the 1999 release, A Sun Came...

's song "Decatur, Or, Round Of Applause For Your Stepmother!".

External links