Located in the central part of the southern tier of lower Michigan counties, Hillsdale County was named for the terrain which features "hills and dales." A "dale" is a valley, or an elongated depression of the earth's surface commonly situated between ranges of hills or mountains.
Although there are no mountains in Hillsdale County, there are heights that rise 1,250 feet above sea level giving life to the headwaters for five major rivers that drain into Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Topographical maps indicate that the highest point in the county is located at the corners of Wood and Kelso Roads in Wheatland Township.
As a major watershed with more than 100 lakes, and as many ponds, the rivers that begin within the county's borders include the St. Joseph flowing into Lake Michigan, the St. Joseph of the Maumee, the Kalamazoo, the Grand and the Raisin. Spring fed, the rivers flow north, south, east and west from the highlands.