Please note: The permit requirement at Emiquon has been temporarily lifted, but all other rules and regulations still apply.
News From the Preserve
On June 25, 45 alligator gar were released at Emiquon! These prehistoric fish have been swimming in our rivers since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They can grow to lengths of 10 feet or more and were once found in Illinois and across the Midwest. Their numbers dropped over time, however, due to overfishing and the loss of important backwater spawning habitats. Eventually, they were considered extirpated from many of their northern reaches. The release and research happening at Emiquon is part of a reintroduction plan led by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that will help this important native species thrive in Illinois rivers once again.
Why You Should Visit
At more than 6,000 acres, 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. 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 Ramsar.
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.
Additionally, Emiquon offers a wide range of recreational activities, from birding to paddling to hunting and fishing.
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.
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 TNC 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.
For questions, 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.