Open to the Public
Why You Should Visit
Emiquon is one of the largest floodplain restoration projects in the Midwest. It is the premiere demonstration site for The Nature Conservancy’s work on the Illinois River and within the Upper Mississippi River system and ultimately will help guide large floodplain river restoration efforts around the world. The next phase of restoration at Emiquon will be the installation of a water management structure. Additionally, Emiquon offers a wide range of recreational activities, from birding to paddling to hunting and fishing.
Emiquon once was the jewel of the Illinois River, nurturing diverse and abundant communities of native plants and animals in the complex system of backwater wetlands and lakes. From the hundreds of nearby archeological sites, including Native American villages and ceremonial and burial mounds, to the acres of modern fields of corn and soybeans, this land is a quiet testimony to the abundant natural resources that supported more than 600 generations of civilization in this area.
Take a Virtual Tour
Learn more about Emiquon through our virtual preserve tour.
Along the Illinois River, about an hour southwest of Peoria
Open from sunrise to sunset
While visiting the Emiquon Preserve, sun screen and walking footwear is recommended. Visitors have open access to the lakeside observatories and trails; however a permit is required for lake access, i.e. for fishing and boating. Lake access permits are available at Dickson Mounds Museum during normal business hours.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
In the early 1900s, the Illinois River was one of North America’s most ecologically and economically significant river systems. It supported the most productive inland commercial fishery and highest mussel abundance per mile of any stream on the continent. Even though it has undergone significant land conversion during the past century, the river was identified as one of three large-floodplain river ecosystem restoration priorities in the United States by the National Research Council.
By virtue of its size, optimal location and biological legacy, Emiquon significantly advances the Conservancy’s efforts toward conservation of the Illinois River.
Archaeologists consider Emiquon — with more than 149 documented archaeological sites — and the lands around it, one of the richest places for discovered Native American sites in the country. It is a place of mystery and legend with strong connections to the past.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Conservancy is committed to the preservation of the Illinois River. The acquisition of Emiquon enables scientific research and ecological restoration of an area that is considered the linchpin for recovery of the ecosystem.
Guided by recommendations from the Emiquon Science Advisory Council, which is a group of more than 40 scientists of regional and national acclaim, the Conservancy’s work at Emiquon is on the leading edge of the evolving field of restoration science. Scientists with the Conservancy and its partners have created computer models to guide the restoration and management. These models are used by Conservancy scientists to evaluate different management scenarios.
For example, the Conservancy ran models that predicted where water would occur on the property, how deep it would be, how it would carry and deposit sediment and how plant communities would respond to the changes. These types of models are invaluable. They give us the ability to determine how the lands and waters of Emiquon will respond under different conditions and allow Conservancy scientists to plan for management challenges — such as excessive sedimentation — before they occur.
The Conservancy also works closely with the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois and other partners to collect monitoring data about the current state of Emiquon’s species and natural communities. These activities will continue throughout the restoration and give scientists a means to measure progress and provide for adaptive management of the project.
The restoration at Emiquon also benefits the economic development and prosperity of local communities. With a wide-spread reputation for great fishing, hunting and birding, Emiquon attracts sportsmen and women from throughout the state, bringing more business to local sporting goods shops and the restaurants where these visitors eat.
How You Can Help
Please see “Ways of Giving”
Hundreds of thousands snow geese find refuge at Emiquon during spring migration.
Volunteer Jane Ward provides a view from the recently constructed Lakeside Observatory at sunrise.
What to See: Plants
Emiquon is home to a wide variety of wetland plants including reeds, rushes, naiads and even American lotus. The restored prairie supports 100 species such as big bluestem, Indian grass, black-eyed Susan and prairie coreopsis. The Conservancy has planted more than 300,000 bottomland and upland tress on the site.
What to See: Animals
Emiquon is home to hundreds of thousands of migratory and resident birds, including American bald eagles and white pelicans and numerous species of ducks, geese, herons, egrets and shore birds. Mammals include river otters, muskrats, beavers, mink and short-tailed weasels. Grassland birds such as Henslow’s and grasshopper sparrows, eastern bluebirds, orioles and migrating warblers can be seen in the prairie on the western side of the preserve. Reptiles such as prairie king and western ribbon snakes; snapping and softshell turtles; and plains leopard, northern cricket and green frogs can also be found.
- Observatories with spotting scopes
- Interpretive signage
- Waterfowl hunting
- Boating (paddles and electric motors only)
- Wildlife viewing (especially birds)
Please contact Jason Beverlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 309-547-2730 for more information on volunteer opportunities at Emiquon.
Visitors have access to the lakeside observatories and trails; however a permit is required for lake access, i.e. for fishing and boating. Lake access permits are available at Dickson Mounds Museum during normal business hours. The lake is equipped with a canoe launch and concrete boat launch.
For school or larger tour groups, bus parking is available.
Bathrooms and picnic facilities are available at Dickson Mounds Museum.
For information on ADA accessibility and use of OPDMDs, click here.
Parking lots are along the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway (IL-78/97)
From Springfield: Take IL-97 through Havana. After crossing the Illinois River, merge right onto IL-78/97.
From Peoria: Take IL-24 west. Turn left onto IL-78/97 toward Havana.
From Chicago: Take I-55 south. Take exit 145 toward McLean. Turn right onto US-136. After crossing the Illinois River, merge right onto IL-78/97