The Driftless Area (also called the Driftless Zone) is a multistate region in the United States Midwest centered along the Mississippi River and containing portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. The area is known for its deeply carved river valleys and rolling hills, making the area a hunting, camping and one of the sole skiing areas in the Midwest. In many respects, the geography of the region creates not only unique ecosystems but also a unique culture.
The true boundaries of the Driftless Area are somewhat ambiguous as the regions defining characteristics gradually ease back in flat lands rather than distinctly end. However, in general, the borders are as follows
- In Minnesota, it begins roughly near Fort Snelling Park and expands to the southeast with Minnesota Route staying general east of Minnesota Highway 56.
- In Wisconsin, the area is generally bounded by the Chippewa and Wisconsin Rivers. Where the Wisconsin River turns west at Portage, the area generally lies to the west of a straight line running due south between Portage and the Illinois border.
- In Iowa, the area is generally located east of Wapsipnicon River and north of US Route 30.
- In Illinois, the area is generally west of the Stephenson-Winnebago County line and north of IL Route 64.
The following regions are partially or entirely within the Driftless Area:
- Grant Wood Country
- Greater Dubuque
- Northeastern Iowa
The area, despite being relatively remote, is immediately accessible via a number of interstates and routes including the following:
- Interstate 90: The primary interstate through the area, I-90 transverses the area and connects Madison and LaCrosse before heading into Minnesota.
- Interstate 94: I-94 touches the northernmost portions of the area and connects Madison to the Twin Cities. There are some natural bluffs along the route, but it primarily skirts the area.
- US 151: This route runs southwest to northeast through many portions of the area, connecting Dubuque to both Cedar Rapids and Madison.