Places We Protect

Emiquon

Illinois

A large flock of long-necked white birds takes flight at The Nature Conservancy's Emiquon preserve.
Emiquon Species of both resident and migrant birds rely on these restored floodplains for survival. © Laura Stoecker

At more than 6,000 acres, Emiquon is one of the largest floodplain restoration projects in the Midwest.

Overview

Description

2020 marked 20 years of restoration at Emiquon! Learn more in our Storymap.

Please note: Lake access permits and liability waivers for The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve are required as of May 1, 2021. They are available at Dickson Mounds Museum, 10956 N. Dickson Mounds Rd, Lewistown, IL 61542. For up-to-date museum information, please call 309-547-3721 or visit their website. Additionally, Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) are not allowed except for specific waterfowl hunting opportunities. Learn more about preserve guidelines in the Visit section below.

Why You Should Visit

At more than 6,000 acres, Emiquon is one of the largest floodplain restoration projects in the Midwest, providing habitat for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. It is the premier 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. 

Additionally, Emiquon offers a wide range of recreational activities, from birding and paddling to hunting and fishing.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Emiquon is a migratory bird haven along the Illinois River.

Hours

Open sunrise to sunset

Highlights

Emiquon offers a wide range of recreational activities, from birding and paddling to hunting and fishing.

Size

6,000 acres

Explore our work in Illinois

Emiquon Migratory Bird Livestream

Each spring and fall, tens of thousands of birds use Emiquon as a stopover point on their migration routes. These species include American white pelicans, trumpeter and tundra swans, many types of warblers and the most famous and recognizable at Emiquon—the snow goose.

Emiquon Migratory Bird Livestream Found along the Illinois River, our Emiquon preserve is a critical stopover point for tens of thousands of migrating birds each year. American white pelicans, trumpeter and tundra swans, many types of warblers and snow geese can be found in this rich wetland.

Snow geese arrive to Emiquon in spring and fall and can form massive flocks of 10,000 or more individuals. These flocks of easy-to-identify white-and-black geese are hard to miss and are just as fun to hear with their symphony of familiar honks.

Be sure to tune in during peak migration seasons, but feel free to enjoy the view year-round!

Photos from Emiquon

Emiquon is home to a wide variety of wetland plants and sees thousands of birds pass through it annually.

Colorful yellow and green plants grow in the waters of the Emiquon wetlands.
Maria Lemke looks for mussels at Emiquon.
Three canoes sitting on land next to water.
A flock of birds fly over water under a pastel pink sky at sunset.
Landscape view of a field of golden grass in the foreground and a large body of water in the distance at Emiquon.
The setting sun reflects on a body of water as a bird flies over the water's surface under an orange sky.
A flock of white pelicans takes flight at Emiquon.
A vast field of yellow wildflowers stretches toward a body of water in the far distance.
Several people hike with a dog on a grassy path next to water; some stop to look out over the water.
A pink sunrise over wetlands at Emiquon.

Visit

Know Before You Go

  •  

    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. TNC has planted more than 300,000 bottomland and upland tress on the site.

    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 least 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.

  • Recreational opportunities at Emiquon include boating, fishing, hunting, birdwatching, wildlife viewing and hiking. Our visitor use facilities offer boardwalks, canoe and boat launches, hiking trails, observation decks and pavilions, and signs that help visitors learn more about these incredible habitats. We encourage visitors to download a map of the visitor use area.

    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. The lake is equipped with a canoe launch and concrete boat launch. Emiquon also offers a variety of hunting options for those who are interested. 

    While visiting Emiquon Preserve, sunscreen and walking footwear are recommended. There are no restrooms at the preserve, but bathrooms and picnic facilities are available nearby at Dickson Mounds Museum. We recommend that visitors arrive at Emiquon's designated parking lot by routing to 11304 North Prairie Road.

    The use of Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMD)s (utility vehicles, ATVs, Segways, golf carts, etc.) on this property has been assessed in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. OPDMDs are prohibited.

Get Involved

  • Please contact Randy Smith at randolph.smith@tnc.org or 309-518-0103 for more information on volunteer opportunities at Emiquon.

    For school or larger tour groups, bus parking is available.

  • Frequent visitors and nearby residents are encouraged to join the new Emiquon Facebook group

    This group is the place for you to connect with Emiquon administrators, other community members, and stay up to date on happenings at the preserve.

    For other questions about the preserve, call our office at 309-547-2730. Office hours are Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. Our address is 11304 N. Prairie Road, Lewistown, IL 61542.

Support Our Work in Illinois

You can help us do important conservation work at Emiquon and beyond.

Donate Now

Why TNC 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.

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.

By virtue of its size, optimal location and biological legacy, Emiquon significantly advances TNC’s efforts toward conservation of the Illinois River. As part of the restoration process, TNC installed a ground-breaking water management structure that reconnects the floodplain to the Illinois River for the benefit of both people and nature. (Read our FAQs about the water management project.) The site has been designated a wetland of international importance by RamsarWetlands are key to fighting and adapting to climate change, yet only 10% of historic wetlands remain in Illinois.

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.

The Wonderful World of Wetlands (5:14) Learn about the wonderful world of wetlands from TNC experts across the Midwest. Visit nature.org/midwestwetlands.

Current Conservation Work

TNC 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 biodiverse wetland ecosystem.

Guided by recommendations from the Emiquon Science Advisory Council, which is a group of more than 40 scientists of regional and national acclaim, TNC’s work at Emiquon is on the leading edge of the evolving field of restoration science. Scientists with TNC and its partners have created computer models to guide the restoration and management. These models are used by TNC scientists to evaluate different management scenarios.

For example, TNC 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 TNC scientists to plan for management challenges—such as excessive sedimentation—before they occur.

TNC 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 widespread 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.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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