By Jason Beverlin
Deputy Director of the Illinois River Program
March 2010 — The past few months here at Emiquon have reminded me of the force of nature. Over the past year we’ve had above average rainfall of over 60 inches. As the wetland grew in response and winter brought a coat of ice to the lakes, we have worked to overcome new challenges.
The high water levels led to a pause in construction of the visitor center. We also faced some issues with utilities on the preserve. We started using the pumps during late winter to remove some water. Once water levels are low enough, construction will resume for the boardwalks, canoe launch, boat launch, hiking trails, and observation decks that will comprise the new visitor facilities. In the long-term, the pumps will be used in coordination with a managed gate connecting to the Illinois River to manage water levels. This helps protect the diversity of habitat needed by native species.
Despite high water levels, birds continue to flock to Emiquon. This spring we've spotted rare trumpeter swans and white pelicans. Also, this week's aerial count by the Illinois Natural History Survey reported over 13,000 diving ducks enjoying the vegetated, open water wetlands. I'm proud that Emiquon provides a safe haven for a range of important waterfowl.
Winter ice fishing was very successful, and many visitors are now enjoying abundant spring fishing. However, until the water levels are further reduced, parking for fishing and boating is limited and visitors should not park on the shoulders of state routes 78/97.
We have made great strides in the past few years here at Emiquon. I will keep you posted as temperatures warm and our model restoration continues to evolve.