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Central Indiana

Further information: List of Indiana counties

The Geography of Indiana refers to the U.S. State of Indiana. Indiana is in the north-central U.S. and borders on Lake Michigan. Surrounding states are Michigan to the north, Illinois to the west, Kentucky to the south, and Ohio to the east. The entire southern boundary is the Ohio River.


Indiana is bounded on the north by Lake Michigan and the state of Michigan; on the east by Ohio; on the south by Kentucky, with which it shares the Ohio River as a border; and on the west by Illinois. Indiana is one of the Great Lakes states.

The northern boundary of the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois was originally defined to be a latitudinal line drawn through the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan. Since such a line did not provide Indiana with usable frontage on the lake, its northern border was shifted ten miles (16 km) north when it was granted statehood in 1816.[1]

The 475 mile (764 km) long Wabash River bisects the state from northeast to southwest before flowing south, mostly along the Indiana-Illinois border. The river has given Indiana a few theme songs, such as On the Banks of the Wabash, The Wabash Cannonball and Back Home Again, In Indiana.[2][3] The Wabash is the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi River, traversing 400 miles (640 km) from the Huntington dam to the Ohio River. The White River, a tributary of the Wabash, zigzags through central Indiana.

There are 24 Indiana state parks, nine man-made reservoirs, and hundreds of lakes in the state. Areas under the control and protection of the National Park Service or the United States Forest Service include:[4][5]


The state of Indiana is divided into several regions.

Northern Indiana

Northern Indiana consists of 26 counties in the northern third of the state.

The landscape is characterized physically by pancake flat to very rolling terrain ranging from 600 to 1,000 feet (180 to 300 m) above sea level and is similar to central Indiana except for the presence of higher and hillier terminal moraines and many glacial kettle lakes in some areas. Sand dunes and sand ridges also exist along the Lake Michigan shoreline(some reaching near 200 feet in height) and inland around the Kankakee River Basin. The Eastern Continental Divide goes through Northern Indiana following the top of the Valparaiso Moraine part of the way. Besides some urban areas, much of Northern Indiana is farmland.

Heavy industry is as much a part of the economy in the eastern two thirds of Northern Indiana as agriculture and as a result, the region tends to be associated with the Rust Belt. Northern Indiana as a whole is also the most ethnically diverse region in Indiana.

The northwest corner of the state is part of the Chicago metropolitan area and has nearly one million residents.[6] Gary, and the cities and towns that make up the northern half of Lake, Porter, and La Porte Counties bordering on Lake Michigan, are effectively commuter suburbs of Chicago. Porter and Lake counties are commonly referred to as "The Calumet Region". The name comes from the fact that the Grand Calumet and Little Calumet rivers run through the area. These counties are in the Central Time Zone, the same as Chicago. NICTD owns and operates the South Shore Line, a commuter rail line that runs electric-powered trains between South Bend and Chicago.[7] Sand dunes and heavy industry share the shoreline of Lake Michigan in northern Indiana. Along the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Northern Indiana one can find many parks between the industrial areas. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Indiana Dunes State Park are two natural landmarks of the area.

Northwest Indiana is marked with swell and swale topography as it retreats South from Lake Michigan (which are remnants of the beaches of ancient Lake Michigan) and is one of the marshiest parts of the state. The ecology changes dramatically between swells, or on opposite sides of the same swell. Plants and animals adapted to marshes are generally found in the swales, while forests or even prickly pear cactus and Six-lined Racerunners are found in the dryer swells.[8]

The Kankakee River, which winds through northern Indiana, serves somewhat as a demarcating line between suburban northwest Indiana and the rest of the state.[9] Before it was drained and developed for agriculture, the Kankakee Marsh was one of the largest freshwater marshes in the country.[10] South of the Kankakee is a large area of prairie, the eastern edge of the Grand Prairie that covers Iowa and Illinois.[11] The Prairie Chicken and American Bison were common in Indiana's pioneer era, but are now extinct as wild species within the state.

The South Bend metropolitan area, in north central Indiana, is the center of commerce in the region better known as Michiana. Other cities located within the area include Elkhart, Mishawaka, Goshen, and Warsaw. Fort Wayne, the state's second largest city, is located in the northeastern part of the state where it serves the state as a transportation hub. Other cities located within the area include Huntington and Marion. East of Fort Wayne is an area of extremely flat land that, before development, was the western-most reach of the Great Black Swamp.[12]

Northeastern Indiana is home to a number of lakes, many of which are kettle lakes, which were caused by the glaciers that covered Indiana thousands of years ago and Glacial Lake Maumee. Some of these lakes include Lake James in Pokagon State Park, Lake Maxinkuckee, Lake Wawasee and Lake Tippecanoe. Lake Wawasee is the largest natural lake in Indiana, while Lake Tippecanoe is the deepest lake, reaching depths of over 120 feet (37 m). Both lakes are located in Kosciusko County. Chain O' Lakes State Park, located in Noble County, contains 11 lakes, 8 of which are connected by natural channels.


Main article: Michiana

The center third of this region is known as the Indiana section of Michiana. South Bend is the cultural and economic center of the Michiana region.

Maumee Valley

The Eastern third of this region centers around the Fort Wayne area and the Maumee River basin.

Central Indiana

consider Central Indiana as the Indianapolis metropolitan area. The region's dominant city by far is Indianapolis. Other prominent cities include Lafayette, Kokomo, Anderson, Muncie, and Terre Haute. Central Indiana is the most populous region of Indiana. The primary economic engines of Central Indiana are education and research, agriculture and manufacturing, and as a result, some of the larger cities in the region are dealing with Rust Belt issues similar to Northern Indiana. Major universities include Purdue University, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Ball State University, Indiana Wesleyan University, and Indiana State University.

Physically, the land in Central Indiana is characterized primarily by low, gently rolling hills and shallow valleys. Some counties of the region, like Howard County, are more flat in nature, while others, such as Morgan County are more rugged and hilly, while Tippecanoe County, trisected by the Wabash River, Tippecanoe River, and Wildcat Creek, has perhaps the most diverse physiography of the region. Elevation ranges from 600 to 1,000 feet (180 to 300 metres) (and more) above sea level. Forests and farmland line Central Indiana's gently rolling plains and river valleys. The highest point in Indiana is Hoosier Hill, at 1,257 feet (383 m) above sea level in northern Wayne County.

The state capital and largest city, Indianapolis, is situated in the central portion of the state. It is intersected by numerous Interstates, U.S. highways, and railways giving the state its motto as "The Crossroads of America".[13] Other large cities and located within the area include Anderson, Carmel, Columbus, Kokomo, Lafayette, Richmond, and Terre Haute.

Rural areas in the central portion of the state are typically composed of a patchwork of fields and forested areas. The geography of Central Indiana consists of gently rolling hills and sandstone ravines carved out by the retreating glaciers. Many of these ravines can be found in west-central Indiana, specifically along Sugar Creek in Turkey Run State Park and Shades State Park.

Southern Indiana

Main article: Southern Indiana

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