Iroquois County State Wildlife Area is situated
in a low glacial outwash plain associated with the Kankakee River Valley
that consists of marshland, sand ridges and dunes. The initial acquisition
of land occurred in 1944 for the purpose of protecting Illinois' declining prairie
chicken population. Prairie chickens did not survive
and public hunting became the major use. The state purchased an additional
560 acres in 1984. Known as the Hooper Branch Savanna, 480 acres of this
parcel is considered the largest single tract of rare native savanna remaining
in Illinois. The total acreage at Iroquois County is now 2,480.
The area is located 2 miles north and 3
miles east of Beaverville, in the extreme northeast corner of Iroquois
County, about 80 miles south of Chicago. The majority of the area, 2,000
acres, is managed as a public hunting area. The remainder
is a dedicated nature preserve. Nonconsumptive recreation, in the form
of hiking and nature study, is available when the facility is closed to
The Iroquois State Wildlife Area exhibits
some of the finest and most extensive prairie marsh and sand dune vegetation
remaining in Illinois. The occurrence of this vegetation is regulated
by soil characteristics and moisture. Dry sand ridges are dominated
by black oak forest. Lower lying areas range from dry prairie to marsh,
depending on soil moisture. Dominant grasses on dry prairie areas are
little bluestem and switch grass. Grasses such as big bluestem, Indian
grass, little bluestem and switch grass are dominant on mesic (intermediate
between wet and dry) prairie. Areas of wet prairie are indicated by bluejoint
grass, cord grass and sedges. Several boggy areas contain plants seldom
encountered elsewhere in Illinois, including blueberry, huckleberry,
hardhack, march marigold, colic root, sundew (a carnivorous plant) and
Aside from supporting huntable populations
of deer and upland game, Iroquois State Wildlife Area is inhabited by
numerous, interesting non-game birds and mammals. Wet prairies and marshes
provide preferred habitat for birds such as herons, bitterns, rails, snipe
and marsh hawks. During migration, marshes are visited by numerous species
of waterfowl and the rare sandhill crane. Mammals utilizing Iroquois
marshlands include raccoon, muskrat, mink and beaver. Upland prairie
and forest at Iroquois are inhabited by many species of songbirds. During
migration the number of species that may be seen on the area is increased
even further. The veery, a rare thrush, is reportedly nests in the area.
Unusual mammalian species occupying the uplands include the plains pocket
gopher and the southern flying squirrel.
Hooper Branch Savanna occupies the edge of the
former Glacial Lake Watseka, formed 14,000 years ago moraines dammed up by glacial meltwaters. The soils of Hooper Branch
Savanna are sandy, having derived from beach and nearshore sand deposits
exposed to wind action. The developing dune and swale topography is
quite noticeable today.
Savanna developed on the dry dune ridges
while shrub prairies and mesic sand prairies developed in wetter swales.
Savannas are composed of a mix of trees, prairie grasses and forbs.
Savannas have a park-like appearance with widely spaced trees and little
brush. Savannas are a fire-maintained natural community. Periodic fires
swept through this area prior to settlement killing many small trees and shrubs. The thick bark of the large trees protected them from fire. Black
oaks are the dominant savanna trees and prairie
grasses including porcupine grass, june grass and little bluestem. Prairie
forbs, such as puccoons, lupines, leadplant, spiderwort and butterfly
weed, provide color to the savanna landscape. In the shrub prairie portions,
mosses carpet the sand surface.
Many designated picnic areas with tables and grills are located in
shady areas and convenient to parking lots. Sanitary facilities are available
in most areas. The site has no shelters. Drinking water is available at the
Hikers will enjoy a 3/4-mile long hiking trail and a 1 mile self-guided
nature trail, of which 1/3 mile is handicapped accessible. In addition,
several miles of unmarked trails wind through wooded and prairie areas,showcasing interesting plant and animal life. To
preserve the high-quality of the natural area, only walk-in access
is allowed. Carry out all litter and do not
remove any natural material.
An archery range is available
in the northwest corner of the area.
A designated shotgun-only shooting area is available daily except November and December for those wishing
to warm up for the hunting season.
There is a designated area for training or exercising dogs.
Training is closed April 1 to August 1 for the protection of breeding
A concession operates at the headquarters during
the hunting season.
Snowmobilers are permitted to use 12 miles of signed trails
that follow the fire control lanes and service road from 8 a.m. - 10
p.m. when conditions permit.
The area is operated primarily as a permit
pheasant hunting area; however, rabbit, quail and pheasant hunting
are allowed after the permit hunt season has concluded. Prior to the permit portion
of the hunting season, squirrel and dove provide the early hunting action.
Deer hunting (bow only) is allowed prior to and following
the permit hunting season. Lesser opportunities for woodcock,
rail, snipe and deer (shotgun) also are available. Check with the site
for upland game species and hunting dates.
the permit pheasant season, all hunters must check in and check out, before
and after hunting, at the area headquarters.
and after the permit pheasant season, all hunters must check out at the
area headquarters after hunting.
and opossum may be taken only with a special permit issued by the site.
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