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Central Illinois is a region of the U.S. state of Illinois that consists of the entire central section of the state, divided in thirds from north to south. It is an area of mostly flat prairie. The western section (west of the Illinois River) was originally part of the Military Tract of 1812 and forms the distinctive western bulge of the state. Known as the Heart of Illinois, it is characterized by small towns and mid-sized cities. Agriculture, particularly corn and soybeans, as well as educational institutions and manufacturing centers, figure prominently. Major cities include Peoria, Springfield (the state capital), Decatur, Quincy, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, Galesburg and Danville.
Geographically, Central Illinois is generally flat prairie and farmland, and includes Douglas County, the state's flattest. The region also hosts a variety of man-made lakes, including Lake Shelbyville, Lake Springfield, Clinton Lake and Lake Decatur. Major rivers in the region include the Illinois River, Middle Fork Vermilion River, Kaskaskia River, Sangamon River and the Mississippi River.
Central Illinois is home to many protected areas, a number of which have to do with Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site showcases the town where Lincoln started his life as a politician. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service is a national park featuring Lincoln's Springfield home. Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge is a protected area where thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds live. There are many other state parks and National Wildlife Refuges in the region.
The climate of Central Illinois is humid continental and the area experiences all four seasons. Snow is common in the winter months and while the counties vary in snowfall rate, most receive about twenty inches of snow annually. With all precipitation combined, most counties receive about 38 inches of rain and snow annually. Severe weather is common in the region and tornadoes are common during the spring and summer months. Rare blizzards can happen in parts of Central Illinois in Winter. The weather of Central Illinois affects the crop season as well; droughts can sometimes happen in summer and fall causing harm to the soybean and corn crops in the region.
Central Illinois has a diverse economy consisting of a variety of industries. Agriculture is the most significant industry in the region and ranges in scope from small farms to mass-production farms. Most counties in Central Illinois have an agriculture-based economy. Common crops grown are soybeans, corn, grain and the newly emerging watermelon. County fairs and the Illinois State Fair help to promote agriculture in the region and also offer entertainment. The manufacturing industry is also significant. Caterpillar Inc. employs 4000 workers in the region and is headquartered in Peoria. The Illinois government in Springfield is also a major employer of people in the region. Popular tourist sites include the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Old State Capitol, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Military makes up a smaller part of the economy, but used to be much larger until the closing of bases like Chanute Air Force Base.
Transportation in Central Illinois is provided by an assortment of regional airports, railroads, Interstate Highways and bus networks. Airports with commercial service in the region include Central Illinois Regional Airport (serving Bloomington-Normal), General Wayne Downing Peoria International Airport (serving the Peoria area), Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, University of Illinois Willard Airport at Urbana-Champaign, Decatur Airport, and Baldwin Field. Multiple Amtrak lines run through the region with stops in major regional cities. The most common mode of travel is on one of the many expressways, that cross the region. There are nine Interstate Highways located in Central Illinois, six of which are primary.