River State Forest in western Illinois Henderson County is 8 miles
north of Oquawka on the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop. The forest is managed
primarily to demonstrate sound forestry practices, with demonstrations
and talks on these practices available to interested groups.
200-acre Oquawka Refuge, acquired by the state in 1925, contains the areas
oldest pine plantation. Established in 1928 and known as the Milroy Plantation,
the 17-acre area contains red, white and jack pines that tower more than
50 feet high. Subsequent land purchases, beginning in 1941 and 1942, and
a lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have brought the forest
to 2,900 acres.
River State Forest is a remnant of a vast prairie woodland border area
that once covered much of Illinois. Among its vegetation are two endangered
plants - penstemon, commonly known as bearded tongue, and Pattersons
bindweed, which N.H. Patterson documented in 1873, for the
first time anywhere, in the forest .
Common plants found in the prairie are big and little bluestem,
Indian grass, June grass, grama grass, flower-of-an-hour, cottonweed,
prairie coneflower, pale prairie coneflower, prairie bush clover, purple
prairie clover and blazing star. Also found are western sunflower, kittentail,
lead plant, prickly pear cactus, flowering spurge, aromatic sumac, false
dragonhead, Sullivans milkweed, horsemint, goats-rue and hoary
demonstrate the feasibility of growing profitable pine forests on the
type of sandy soil found in the area, much of the forest has been converted
from scrub hardwood to pine. This "timber stand conversion"
consists of removing scrub hardwood, salvaging the saleable material for
pulpwood, controlling hardwood reproduction and planting rapidly growing
white and red pines. Many area landowners have adopted these conversion
practices and established hundreds of thriving pine plantations throughout
prominent landmark in the forest is its fire tower, located at the headquarters
area. Fire fighting crews and equipment also stand ready to protect
the forest during peak fire periods.
separate the forest into manageable components, 60 miles of firebreaks
interlace Big River State Forest. When fires arent a threat, hikers
and horseback riders appreciate the diverse scenery the firebreak trails provide.
- Several picnic areas exist along Campbell Slough and Putneys
Landing, with shelter houses, tables, camp stoves and drinking water available.
- Tent and trailer sites are available at the Shady Pines area. All campers must obtain a permit
from the park office. Group camping is allowed, but groups of 25 or more
must receive advance permission from the site manager.
and Fishing - Three boat launches are
located along the Mississippi River. Boat rentals are not provided.
and bank fishing are allowed. Among the fish most commonly found are crappie,
bass, carp, buffalo, channel catfish, bluegill and bullhead.
the winter, ice fishing is a popular sport along Spring Slough, north
of Putneys Landing.
- Big Pines Trail provides an enjoyable 3 1/2-mile hike on 3 trails: Lincolns
Trail, Wilderness Trail, and Big Pines Trail. In addition, the 60-mile
network of firebreaks is used by hikers, backpackers, birders and nature
Riding- Horseback riders also put the firebreaks to good use. Equestrians
must stay on designated trails. Horse rentals are available.
- With the Mississippi River providing water and prime habitat offered
by the forest, Big River supports a diversity of wildlfie, including white-tailed deer and numerous small
game species such as quail, squirrels and rabbits. To supplement existing
food and improve habitat for upland game, food plots are planted annually.
During the waterfowl hunting season, the Mississippi River is popular
for its wood ducks, blue- and green-winged teal, mallards and Canada geese.
- Big River State Forest has 30 miles of marked trails.
Drives - Winding through the forest are 15 miles of scenic roadways.
visitors coming from the south, east and west, BIG RIVER can be reached
from Highway 164. The forest is well signed on Highway 164. Go north on
the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop road for 9 miles. The office is located
on the right.
For visitors coming from the north, take Highway 17 to Keithsburg. The
forest is well signed on Highway 17. Turn left at Main Street and go to
the next 4-way stop. Turn right (going south) and go 4 miles on the Oquawka-Keithsburg
blacktop. The office is located on the left side of the road.
visitors coming from the south, west, and east, DELABAR PARK can be reached
from Highway 164. The park is well signed on Highway 164. Go north 2 miles
on the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop road. The park entrance is located
on the left.
If coming from the north, take Highway 17 south to Keithsburg. Turn left
at Main Street going east to the first 4-way stop. Turn right (going south)
and go 10 miles. The park entrance is located on the right.
visitors coming from the south, east, and the west, HENDERSON COUNTY CONSERVATION
AREA can be reached from Highway 34. The site is well signed on Highway
34. Turn 1 mile west of junction 164 and 34(north) on a gravel road and
go 1 mile. The entrance is on the left side.
For visitors coming from the north, take Highway 164 south to Gladstone.
Continue south on 164 to junction 164 and 34. Turn right and go west 1
mile. Then turn right (north) on gravel road and go 1 mile and the park
entrance is on the left.