The name Isle is given to the area since, prior to the area being drained by the Dutchman Cornelius Vermuyden, each town or village formerly lay on areas of dry, raised ground in the surrounding marshland. The River Don used to flow to the north and west (it has since been diverted), dividing the Isle from Yorkshire, the River Idle separates the Isle from Nottinghamshire and the River Trent separates the Isle from the rest of the county. There are three small towns: Epworth – birthplace of John Wesley and his brother Charles – Crowle and Haxey.
Much of the northern part of the Isle has flat topography, with rich farmland used mainly to grow wheat and sugar beet. The land is particularly fertile due to its history of annual flooding from the Trent and peat soil which was created by dense ancient woodland which covered much of the Isle. Even today, in many parts of the northern Isle, petrified wood can be found at about 6ft below ground which is a relic from this woodland, locally called "Bog oaks".
A long-distance walking route, the "Peatlands Way" traverses the Isle.
Axholme, Isle of Area of slight elevation above flat and formerly marshy tract bounded by the Rivers Trent, Torne and Idle. Towns include Crowle, Belton, Epworth and Haxey on higher ground and Owston Ferry and West Butterwick beside the River Trent
– Bartholomew's Gazetteer of Britain compiled by Oliver Mason (John Bartholomew, 1833)
The Isle is known for the early influences of the Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden who initiated the realignment of several of the highland carriers flowing through the district allowing increased agricultural production. This early agricultural activity has left a legacy in the unique strip farming which is still in existence around Epworth. The watercourses of the Isle and the surrounding area are managed by the Isle of Axholme Internal Drainage Board who maintain 302km of watercourse and 18 pumping stations. The Internal Drainage Board also provide water level management to the adjacent Thorne Moors and the Hatfield Moors, both environmentally sensitive areas.
There was an Isle of Axholme Rural District from 1894 to 1974, which covered the entire Isle after 1936. This became part of the Boothferry district of Humberside in 1974, and since 1996 has been in the North Lincolnshire unitary authority.