In 1927, the Illinois Department of Conservation purchased 49 acres on Horseshoe Lake, which is located about seven miles north of Cairo, Illinois, for development of a Canada goose sanctuary. The 2,400-acre oxbow was formerly a Mississippi River channel and has a maximum depth of about six feet. Since the construction of a spillway in 1930, it has maintained an average depth of four feet.
Geese populations estimated at up to 150,000 winter in what is now the 11,692-acre Horseshoe Lake State Conservation Area. Bald eagles also winter at the site and have begun nesting there. The area shelters plants and animals normally found in swampland much farther south, including significant stands of bald cypress, tupelo gum and swamp cottonwood trees.
During spring and fall migrations, the Horseshoe Lake area serves as a vital rest stop for many species of birds, including cerulean, prothonotary and additional warblers.
The Conservancy is evaluating ways in which it can contribute to Horseshoe Lake conservation efforts in the future.