|Overview||Commerce and Recreation||Geology||Ecology||Human History|
The Illinois River Valley's natural wealth has attracted people for thousands of years.
For at least twelve thousand years, people have lived in the Illinois River Valley, drawn by its natural abundance, navigable river, and the fertile soils along the river's floodplain. Many Native American peoples lived here, hunting, gathering, and growing crops, and traveling the Illinois River in dugout canoes. The remains of ancient communities along the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, including Dickson Mounds and Rockwell Mound, offer a window into the native peoples' long tenure in this valley.
In the 1600s, European explorers, fur traders, and missionaries came to the Illinois River Valley. They built homes, forts, trading posts and missions, and lived among the Native Americans. By the early 1800s, Euro-American settlers were flocking to the region. Conflict and disease decimated native communities. Treaties between the United States government and tribal leaders transferred land ownership to the federal government and moved native peoples away from their historic valley homeland.
As settlers came to the region, communities sprang up, built from the land's abundance. The Illinois River yielded astonishing catches of fish and mussels, sustaining what were once the nation's second largest inland fishery. Hunters sought out the river's multitudes of waterfowl. Settlers grew crops in the fertile soil and grazed livestock on prairie grasses. Immigrants came to the valley to extract the land's abundant minerals, predominantly coal, but also sandstone, limestone and clay, which were used for construction, brick-making, and pottery.
A series of channels, dams, and locks on the Illinois River links the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River, creating a cross-continental commercial transportation route from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Levees and dams harness the river's flow, shaping the land and river.
For thousands of years, the Illinois River Valley has sustained abundant and diverse plant and wildlife species. Exploring the sites below will give you a glimpse into the efforts by dedicated citizens and organizations working together to restore the valley's land and water resources, despite industrialization that has threatened the Illinois River Valley's remarkable natural abundance.
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Your search generated 53 listing(s).
Once a private duck-hunting club, the 2,247-acre Anderson Lake and adjacent 230-acre Carlson Lake were purchased by the state in 1947 and put under the auspices of the Illinoi...View Details.
Big Creek Park was the first property purchased by the Canton Park District for park development. A scenic drive winds through the park's gently rolling, oak-hickory-maple for...View Details.
So named because (legend has it) the area once served as a “blind canyon” where Indians ran buffalo for capture, this 298-acre park has long been a natural favorite. Much of B...View Details.
4. Camp Wokanda620 E. Boy Scout Road, Chillicothe, IL 61523
Camp Wokanda, acquired from W.D. Boyce Council of the Boy Scouts of America, offers a beautiful 316-acre woodland setting, including a lake for fishing. The camp, with dining ...View Details.
Acquired in 1970 by the LaSalle County Conservation District, the 333-acre Catlin Park (open May-October) is a mix of bluff land oak-hickory forest, chinquapin oak savanna, ma...View Details.
Peoria Park District's 740-acre Detweiller Park is a popular multi-use destination for folks who enjoy golfing, soccer, volleyball, hiking, birding, fishing, and boating. Detw...View Details.
One of the major on-site archeological museums in the country, Dickson Mounds Museum also interprets the ecology of the Illinois River's Emiquon region. The site itself lies w...View Details.
8. Dirksen Park#1 Dirksen Park Road, Pekin, IL 61554
This 459-acre site is comprised of oak-hickory forest and open shrubland. Running Deer Trail, an extensive hiking/mountain biking/cross country trail, runs through the park, c...View Details.
The Donnelley/DePue State Fish and Wildlife Areas complex, home to a $1 million State Duck Stamp Project, is managed primarily for migratory waterfowl. Frank C. Bellerose, wor...View Details.
East Peoria's Riverfront Greenway project is a 1.8-mile walking/hiking trail along the east bank of the Illinois River. Beginning at EastPort Public Boat Ramp, the trail runs ...View Details.
This eight-acre park located along the Illinois River in downtown East Peoria features a hiking/biking trail and decorative lighting. It's a great place for visitors desiring...View Details.
Seven miles of hiking trails traverse bluff forestland and a restored prairie through this designated state nature preserve. Over 100 woodland bird species use the park as mig...View Details.
Fort Crevecoeur Park commemorates French explorer Robert Rene Cavalier de LaSalle's presence here on the east bank of the Illinois River in 1680. The fort was built to protect...View Details.
Phone: 309-694-3193Site Access: free; fee for camping, (apr 1- oct 31); hrs: dawn to dusk (apr 1 - dec 31)
GPS: 40.64469, -89.60593 Map It!
Located between Lewistown and the community of St. David, the 440-acre Fulton County Camping and Recreation Area includes 150 cumulative acres of surface water spread througho...View Details.
Bordered by the east bank of the Illinois River this linear park possesses an ample walking trail shaded by the park's large riparian trees. On the park's bluff (at the termin...View Details.
Located across the Illinois River from the town of Marseilles, the 510-acre Illini State Park lies along the northern edge of the “Great Falls” of the river, where a drop in s...View Details.
Located at the Starved Rock Lock & Dam, the Illinois Waterway Visitors Center is owned and operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps maintains the lock and dam sys...View Details.
Once used as a proving ground for Caterpillar Inc., this 340-acre site is a model for ecological restoration. Plantings of trees, prairie grasses and forbs are maturing beauti...View Details.
Named after Jacob John Wolf, 7-term Illinois General Assembly member and past Deputy Director of the Department of Conservation, this unique facility is comprised of a 36,000-...View Details.
Jubilee College State Park is a 3,200-acre facility situated in the Illinoisan drift-plan, replete with rolling topography and the meandering Jubilee Creek. Visitors may see d...View Details.
Phone: (309) 446-3758Site Access: free; fee please call ahead before visiting
GPS: 40.81026, -89.81385 Map It!
21. Lakeland Park1200 Lakeland Park Drive, Canton, IL 61520
Measuring nearly 600 acres in size, Canton's Lakeland Park is a prime example of the possibilities involved in restoring ecological integrity to strip mining sites. Much of th...View Details.
Phone: 309-647-4702Site Access: free, fee for fishing & boating
GPS: 40.57854, -90.04823 Map It!
Established in the late 19th century, the 140-acre Laura Bradley Park is the centerpiece of Peoria's University District. Operated by the Peoria Park District, this large park...View Details.
Designed by the legendary gardener Oscar F. Dubuis and dedicated in 1896, Glen Oak Park is the focal point of northeastern Peoria and home to the Peoria Park District headquar...View Details.
Initiated in 1925, the Marshall State Fish & Wildlife Area presently includes about 6,000 acres spread over 3 different units along 10 miles of Illinois River shoreline. All t...View Details.
Phone: (309) 246-8351Site Access: free; fee for camping
GPS: 40.95450, -89.42854 Map It!
Owned and operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, this 240-acre site is dedicated to raising native tree, shrub, grass, and wildflower stock to be used in bo...View Details.
Donated to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources by the F.W. Matthiessen family in 1943, Matthiessen State Park is comprised of nearly 2,000 acres of prairies, bluff an...View Details.
Approaching 900 acres in size, Mautino State Fish & Wildlife Area is comprised of a restored strip mine which has attracted a vibrant community of plants and animals to its fo...View Details.
This 200-acre rare prairie type was donated to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Bureau County District by Mr. and Mrs. J.D. McCune (120-acres) and the University of ...View Details.
29. McNaughton Park#1 McNaughton Park Road, Pekin, IL 61554
McNaughton Park's 850 acres contain some of the most impressive specimens of white oak in the entire Illinois River Valley. This mix of oak savanna and old growth forests is a...View Details.
GPS: 40.60426, -89.59933 Map It!
A pleasant surprise located just off the byway, Mendenhall consists of a complex of wetland pools separated by groves of bottomland hardwood, such as willow, maple and elm tre...View Details.
Dedicated in 1969, the 340-acre Miller-Anderson Nature Preserve contains a variety of natural communities, dominated by old-growth oak-hickory bluff forests and maple-basswood...View Details.
Area: DePueSite Access: free
GPS: 41.23922, -89.40031 Map It!
Mitchell's Grove Nature Preserve is a 184-acre wooded site donated to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 1998 by William H. and Irene Mitchell. The Mitchell famil...View Details.
Area: UticaSite Access: free
GPS: 41.37635, -89.06792 Map It!
This conservation district is composed of 5 parcels of wild-land each offering something different for bird watchers. The “home site” is a 270-acre tract called the Natural La...View Details.
Located just 1 ½ miles north of Princeton on Route 26 is the Red Covered Bridge, built in 1863 and later rehabilitated in 1973. It is one of only five remaining covered bridg...View Details.
Area: PrincetonGPS: 41.416406, -89.47893 Map It!
An officially designated Important Birding Area, this complex of wetlands is composed of 5,660 acres with shallow floodplain lakes and bottomland forest habitats. Spring and f...View Details.
Planned to run from East Peoria to Morton, phase I of this 10-foot wide hard-surfaced hiking/biking trail was completed in 1991, running 4.8 miles north and east out of East P...View Details.
37. Robinson ParkMossville Road, Peoria, IL 61603
This wild, undeveloped 680-acre park has several narrow, informal paths that lace the site, along with a substantial segment of the better-developed Pimiteoui Trail. The park...View Details.
Soon to be linked into Downtown Peoria, this hiking/biking rails-to-trails park offers a leisurely day of birding through a surprising array of habitats, from mature forest to...View Details.
Phone: 309-695-2228Site Access: free; fee for camping
GPS: 40.81296, -89.62976 Map It!
Fifteen centuries ago, melt-waters from the last Ice Age deposited vast amounts of sand along the Illinois River valley, which have since been sculpted into massive dunes. Fol...View Details.
Owned and managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the 200-acre Sandy Ford is located on the east bank of the Vermilion River at the western edge of the Farm R...View Details.
Area: StreatorSite Access: free
GPS: 41.19272, -88.90277 Map It!
With numerous floodplain lakes, sloughs, bottomland forests, both tallgrass prairie and sand prairie, this site offers incredible diversity within its 10,360 acres. The site i...View Details.
42. Shore Acres Park100 Park Blvd., Chillicothe, IL 61523
Located in Chillicothe on the west bank of the Illinois River the park is an excellent place to view wintering Bald Eagles. The focal point of the park is a 19th-century clubh...View Details.
43. Singing WoodsSinging Woods Road, Peoria, IL 61603
For centuries native people have benefited from the diversity of this rich woodland, today the Peoria area benefits from the preservation of this exceptional 700-acre nature p...View Details.
Once the main channel of the Illinois River, Spring Lake is now geologically classified as a “meander scar, an abandoned channel of the river. Guarded by a high sandstone bluf...View Details.
In the heart of Springdale Cemetery, one of central Illinois' largest and most historic cemeteries, there is a small remnant of native tallgrass oak savanna. This increasingly...View Details.
Starved Rock is one of the premier natural areas in the Midwest. There are 18 canyons cut by melting glaciers at the end of the ice age. They sparkle seasonally with waterfall...View Details.
The historic - but now rare - Illinois landscape of backwater lakes, wetlands, prairies, fens, and seeps now flourishes on former corn and soybean fields along the Illinois Ri...View Details.
48. Tante Park5774 Broadway, Pekin, IL
At just 40 acres, Tante Park is one of the quietest and most secluded of Pekin's natural area parks. Its Woodland Wildflower Trail runs along a creek bank, and past many old g...View Details.
GPS: 40.56799, -89.52054 Map It!
TNC has embarked on one of the largest wetland restoration projects in the U.S. Beneath the nearly 7,000 acres of plowed cropland was a dormant seed bank of prairie, hardwood ...View Details.
In 1893, the Santa Fe Railroad purchased 11,000 acres here, and authorized the Devlin Coal Company to mine the site. Peak production occurred in 1905, with well over 700 worke...View Details.
51. Warnecke Woods41-1835 North Avenue, Princeton, IL 61356
Warnecke Woods is a 33.5-acre botanical gem that was donated to the Bureau County Natural Resources Conservation Service District in 1984 by Marie Warnecke. Ecologically, the ...View Details.
This 41-acre wetland restoration project was initiated by Ducks Unlimited and then turned over to IDNR. In addition to its benefit to migrating waterfowl, the Wightman Lake p...View Details.
Step foot into the natural beauty that is native Illinois. Wildlife Prairie Park is a unique spot in central Illinois that is home to a variety of native Illinois plants and a...View Details.