Geography of Cumberland County, Illinois

By | March 12, 2024

Geography and Climate of Cumberland County, Illinois

Cumberland County, situated in the heart of Illinois, boasts a diverse landscape characterized by fertile farmland, gentle rolling hills, and scenic waterways. Encompassing an area of approximately 346 square miles, the county offers a mix of rural charm, natural beauty, and agricultural productivity. From its expansive prairies to its meandering rivers, Cumberland County holds a unique appeal for residents and visitors alike. Check topmbadirectory to learn more about the state of Illinois.

Topography and Landforms:

Cumberland County’s topography is relatively flat, with gently rolling hills and broad plains dominating much of the landscape. The county lies within the Illinois prairie region, characterized by rich, fertile soils deposited by ancient glacial activity. The terrain is ideal for agriculture, supporting the cultivation of corn, soybeans, wheat, and other crops that thrive in the Midwest’s temperate climate.

To the west, the Embarras River winds its way through Cumberland County, providing a scenic backdrop and serving as a vital waterway for irrigation, transportation, and recreation. The river valley adds to the county’s natural beauty, offering opportunities for fishing, boating, and wildlife observation.


Cumberland County experiences a continental climate with four distinct seasons, characterized by hot summers, cold winters, and moderate precipitation throughout the year. Summers are typically warm to hot, with average temperatures ranging from the upper 70s to the low 90s Fahrenheit. High humidity levels can make summer days feel warmer, though occasional thunderstorms provide relief and contribute to the county’s annual rainfall.

Winters in Cumberland County are cold, with average temperatures ranging from the low 20s to the mid-30s Fahrenheit. Snowfall is common during the winter months, though the accumulation tends to be moderate compared to areas farther north. Cold snaps and winter storms can bring freezing temperatures and icy conditions, impacting travel and outdoor activities.

Spring and fall are transitional seasons marked by fluctuating temperatures and changing weather patterns. These seasons offer a mix of mild days, cool nights, and occasional precipitation, making them ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the county’s natural attractions.

Rivers and Lakes:

The Embarras River is the primary waterway in Cumberland County, meandering through its western reaches and serving as a lifeline for the local communities. Originating in eastern Illinois, the Embarras River flows southwestward, eventually joining the Wabash River near the Illinois-Indiana border. Along its course, the river provides habitat for fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife, while also supporting recreational activities such as fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.

While Cumberland County is not known for its large lakes, there are several smaller reservoirs and ponds scattered throughout the region. These water bodies serve various purposes, including irrigation, wildlife habitat, and recreational fishing. Additionally, man-made lakes such as Lake Mattoon, located just west of the county, offer opportunities for boating, swimming, and picnicking amid a scenic natural setting.

Vegetation and Ecosystems:

The natural vegetation of Cumberland County reflects its agricultural heritage and fertile soils, with vast expanses of farmland dominating much of the landscape. Row crops such as corn and soybeans are prevalent, interspersed with patches of woodland, prairie remnants, and riparian vegetation along the riverbanks.

The county’s diverse ecosystems support a variety of plant and animal species, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, songbirds, and small mammals. Wetland areas along the Embarras River provide habitat for waterfowl, amphibians, and migratory birds, contributing to the county’s ecological richness and biodiversity.

Human Impact and Development:

Throughout its history, Cumberland County has been shaped by human activity, from early Native American settlements to modern agricultural practices and rural development. The fertile soils and favorable climate have attracted settlers for centuries, leading to the establishment of farming communities and small towns that dot the countryside.

Agriculture remains the backbone of Cumberland County’s economy, with farming and agribusiness contributing significantly to the local economy and way of life. Family-owned farms, grain elevators, and agricultural cooperatives play a vital role in producing food, fuel, and fiber for both local consumption and global markets.

In addition to agriculture, Cumberland County is home to a variety of industries and businesses, including manufacturing, retail, and healthcare, providing employment opportunities and services for residents. While development has brought economic growth and prosperity to the region, efforts have been made to balance growth with conservation and environmental stewardship.

Conservation initiatives, land preservation efforts, and sustainable farming practices help protect the county’s natural resources and maintain its rural character for future generations to enjoy. As stewards of the land, it is essential to promote responsible land use and ensure the long-term sustainability of Cumberland County’s natural heritage for years to come.