Geography of Ford County, Illinois

Geography of Ford County, Illinois

Ford County, situated in the east-central part of the state of Illinois, is a region defined by its fertile agricultural land, gently rolling prairies, and vibrant rural communities. Spanning an area of approximately 486 square miles, the county offers a mix of rural charm, small-town hospitality, and scenic landscapes. This article will delve into the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other notable features that shape Ford County. Check allunitconverters to learn more about the state of Illinois.

Physical Features:

  • Prairies: Ford County is part of the vast prairie region of Illinois, known for its flat to gently rolling terrain and expansive grasslands. Historically, the county was covered by tallgrass prairie, characterized by tall grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, and Indian grass, as well as wildflowers and native shrubs. While much of the original prairie has been converted to agricultural land, remnants of native prairie can still be found in protected areas and conservation reserves throughout the county.
  • Kankakee Moraine: The northeastern part of Ford County is characterized by the presence of the Kankakee Moraine, a glacial landform formed during the last Ice Age. The moraine consists of rolling hills, ridges, and kettle lakes, created by the movement and melting of glaciers. The moraine provides habitat for a variety of plant and animal species and offers scenic vistas of the surrounding countryside.
  • Vermilion River: The Vermilion River is one of the major waterways in Ford County, meandering through the county from northwest to southeast. The river originates in the glacial moraines of northeastern Illinois and flows for approximately 74 miles before joining the Illinois River. The Vermilion River and its tributaries provide habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife and offer opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and wildlife viewing.


Ford County experiences a humid continental climate, characterized by four distinct seasons, moderate precipitation, and a wide range of temperatures throughout the year.

  • Summer: Summers in Ford County are warm and humid, with daytime temperatures typically ranging from the upper 70s to the low 90s°F (25-35°C). Heatwaves are common during the summer months, with temperatures occasionally exceeding 100°F (38°C). Thunderstorms are frequent, bringing heavy rain, lightning, and gusty winds to the region. Despite the heat, summer is a busy time for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing.
  • Fall: Fall in Ford County is characterized by mild temperatures, crisp mornings, and vibrant foliage. Daytime temperatures gradually cool, with highs ranging from the 60s to the 70s°F (15-25°C). Fall is a popular time for outdoor recreation such as hiking, birdwatching, and apple picking, as well as festivals and events celebrating the harvest season.
  • Winter: Winters in Ford County are cold and snowy, with daytime temperatures typically ranging from the 20s to the 30s°F (-6 to -1°C). Snowfall is common, particularly in January and February, with the county receiving an average of 20-30 inches of snow annually. Cold fronts from the north can bring frigid temperatures and blustery winds, creating hazardous conditions. Winter activities such as sledding, ice skating, and cross-country skiing are popular in the county’s parks and recreational areas.
  • Spring: Spring in Ford County is a transitional season marked by warming temperatures, budding trees, and blooming flowers. Daytime temperatures gradually rise, with highs ranging from the 50s to the 70s°F (10-25°C). Spring is a time of renewal and growth, with farmers planting crops, wildlife emerging from hibernation, and migratory birds returning to the region. Outdoor activities such as gardening, birdwatching, and nature walks are popular as the county comes alive with color and life.

Rivers and Lakes:

  • Vermilion River: The Vermilion River is the primary waterway in Ford County, flowing through the county from northwest to southeast. The river offers opportunities for fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing, with several access points and boat launches available along its banks. Fish species found in the Vermilion River include bass, catfish, walleye, and panfish, making it a popular destination for anglers.
  • Vermilion County Lake: Vermilion County Lake is a man-made reservoir located near the town of Danville, just south of Ford County. The lake covers approximately 200 acres and offers opportunities for fishing, boating, and picnicking. The lake is stocked with a variety of fish species, including bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill, making it a popular destination for anglers of all ages.

Human Impact:

  • Agriculture: Agriculture is the backbone of Ford County’s economy, with the majority of the land devoted to farming and ranching. The county’s fertile soil, flat terrain, and favorable climate make it ideal for growing a variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay. Livestock farming, including cattle, hogs, and poultry, is also prevalent in the county. Agriculture provides jobs, income, and revenue for the county, supporting businesses, families, and communities.
  • Industry: In addition to agriculture, Ford County is home to a variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and education. The county’s strategic location along major transportation routes, including Interstate 57 and U.S. Route 24, makes it an attractive location for businesses seeking access to regional markets. Industrial parks and business districts in cities such as Paxton and Gibson City provide opportunities for economic growth and development, attracting investment and creating jobs.
  • Conservation: Conservation efforts are underway in Ford County to protect and preserve its natural resources for future generations. Organizations such as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy, and local conservation groups work to conserve open space, protect wildlife habitat, and promote sustainable land use practices. Efforts are also underway to address environmental issues such as soil erosion, water pollution, and habitat fragmentation, with initiatives to restore wetlands, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife corridors.


In conclusion, Ford County, Illinois, offers a diverse mix of natural landscapes, agricultural abundance, and vibrant communities. From its fertile prairies and scenic rivers to its thriving farms and small towns, the county boasts a rich tapestry of geography, climate, and culture. While facing challenges such as urbanization, environmental conservation, and economic development, Ford County remains a resilient and vibrant community with a deep connection to its land and heritage. Through collaboration, innovation, and sustainable practices, the county continues to balance economic growth with the protection of its natural resources, ensuring a prosperous future for generations to come.