A map of IllinoisIllinois is a located in the Midwest region of the United States. In the extreme northwest lies the Driftless Area, a region of rugged topography that escaped being glaciated during the last Ice Age. In the far south (which includes a region known as Little Egypt), rise the Shawnee Hills. Between these two upland areas lies a vast area of flat, fertile prairie lands drained by hundreds of rivers, most of which flow southwards into the Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio system. These rivers provided early explorers with a way through from Lake Michigan to the interior of the North American continent. Northern Illinois is dominated by "Chicagoland": the city of Chicago, its suburbs and satellite cities. Central Illinois, known as the "Heart of Illinois", is mostly given over to agriculture, especially maize and soya bean cultivation.
French Canadians, who settled along the Mississippi River in the 17th century, gave the area its name, Illinois, from their spelling of an Native American Miami-Illinois word iliniwek. This was once thought to mean “tribe of superior men”, but is now believed to translate as “he speaks the regular way”. It comes originally from a different word, irenwewa, which later changed to iliniwek. The modern spelling began to appear in the early 1670s, when French colonists arrived in the area. The Illinois' name for themselves is Inoka.
View from hilltop at Charles Mound, Illinois’s highest point
Three US presidents have been elected while living in Illinois: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Barack Obama. Ronald Reagan, whose political career was based in California, was the only US president born and raised in Illinois.
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