Peoria, Illinois - New Visitor Facilities at The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve create unprecedented opportunities for students, teachers, scientists, land managers and the general public to learn about the wetland and enjoy the restoration. A public opening and ribbon cutting will be held June 4 at 11 a.m. The Emiquon Preserve is a 6,700-acre floodplain restoration located southwest of Peoria near Lewistown, Illinois.
“This is a world class functional floodplain demonstration project and our new visitor use areas will give the public an up close look at what’s happening,” says Jason Beverlin, Illinois River Program director.
The visitor amenities include two observatories on the edge of historic Thompson Lake. Extending into the lake, the Lakeside Observatory is equipped with spotting scopes that allow visitors to observe wildlife. A boardwalk reaching nearly 800 feet across the wetland takes visitors from a new parking area to the Wetland Observatory, where they can use spotting scopes to get a bird’s-eye-view of Emiquon from an elevated platform. In addition, strategically placed panels provide information about the views, as well as the history of the area, the restoration, and the importance of healthy floodplains.
The Grand Opening will be at the new visitor use area directly off state Rts. 78 & 97. The ribbon cutting is followed by the annual Lake Festival. Festival activities are free and run from Noon to 4:00 pm and include partner displays, many showcasing their research work in the river valley, canoeing in IDNR Voyageur canoes, hay rack rides and hands-on activities for the entire family. The River Crossroads restaurant will have food and drink on site for purchase throughout the afternoon.
Partners participating include: Dickson Mounds Museum, University of Illinois Springfield, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Emiquon Corp of Discovery, Illinois Natural History Survey, Havana Nature Center, The City of Lewistown, Emiquon Audubon, Mackinaw Valley Longriffle Association, Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, The River Crossroads Restaurant, Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and The Nature Conservancy’s Central Illinois Council.
Emiquon serves as a restoration model throughout the Mississippi River and is influencing floodplain restoration projects in other great rivers around the world. At Emiquon, visitors may see black-crowned night heron, American pelican, black-necked stilt, yellow-headed blackbird, and American bald eagle. Mammals that live in this habitat include river otter, muskrat, beaver, mink, raccoon and short-tailed weasel. Reptiles such as the snapping and spiny softshell turtles and northern water snake are frequently seen. Amphibians such as American bullfrog, western chorus and northern cricket frogs will be heard if not seen.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.