Middle Fork River
Middle Fork River is Illinois first State Scenic River, so designated
in 1986 by Governor James R. Thompson. In 1989 the Middle Fork was also
designated as a National Scenic River by U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Manuel Lujan. The Middle Fork is the first river in Illinois to be included
in the National Wild Scenic Rivers System. It is protected by State and
federal law because of its outstanding scenic, recreational, ecological,
and historical characteristics.
Middle Fork River has eroded through deep glacial deposits, exposing steep
valley slopes and high bluffs. This results in small springs on hillsides,
and attracts swallows to nest in the bluffs. During a flood, the power
of the river cuts new channels, moves boulders, and removes trees. Most
of the area along the river is forested, and there are also several prairie
sites. Three areas support plants and animals so rare that they are protected
as State Nature Preserves. The Middle Fork River Valley supports a great
diversity of plants and animals including 57 types of fish, 45 different
mammals, and 190 kinds of birds. Of this diverse wildlife, there are 24
species officially identified as State threatened or endangered species.
Other special qualities of the Middle Fork River valley include unusual
geologic formations, various historic sites, and over 8,400 acres of public
is this special river protected?
State Law (Public Act 84-1257) and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers
Act give permanent protection to a 17-mile segment of the river in Vermilion
County. This protection includes land on both sides of the river. Conservation
easements are held by the State on all land not already owned by the State.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages this protected river
valley. The State Nature Preserves and State threatened or endangered
species in the valley are also protected by other State laws and programs.
can you see in the Middle Fork river valley?
are miles of scenic river with high bluffs and sand bars, surrounded by
trees harboring many animals. In the river, you may see mussels, turtles,
ducks and other waterfowl, and sunfish, or bass. Along its banks you may
see frogs, salamanders, or raccoons. In the trees you may see or hear
chickadees. bluebirds, woodpeckers, hawks, and many other birds. The many
types of trees include oak, dogwood, walnut, redbud, and ash. On the trails
near the river you may see orchids, ferns, prairie grasses, or wildflowers
such as Indian paint brush, or brown-eyed susan. Nature abounds for you
to enjoy along the Middle Fork River.
can you do along the Middle Fork River?
are a variety of recreational activities to choose from. Canoeing is popular.
You can also enjoy the many other outdoor activities available to you
in three large public parks.
park, owned and operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,
contains over 2,800 acres, with several small lakes and ponds for fishing,
boating, canoeing, and scuba diving. There are also two canoe access areas
on the Middle Fork River. Boat and canoe rental and livery are available
in the park. Only electric motors are allowed. For overnight visits, there
are campgrounds for tents and trailers. A sanitary dump station and electrical
hookups are available. In the winter, there is ice fishing, ice skating,
2,700 acre park, also owned and operated by the Department of Natural
Resources, is used mostly for hunting and horseback riding. Hunting is
permitted for deer, squirrel, pheasant, quail, woodcock, rabbit, raccoon,
and opossum in season. There are 35 miles of equestrian trails that can
also be used for hiking. There is also a non-electric campground for use
by equestrians or other campers. In winter, trails are available for snowmobiling
and cross-country skiing. The area includes two canoe access sites on
the Middle Fork River. Footpaths also provide access to the river for
bend of the river at Windfall Prairie Nature Preserve was named "Bales
Bend" in memory of Robert B. Bales. This memorial honors his untiring
efforts to preserve the Middle Fork River, and recognizes his appreciation
for this river and this special spot on the river. Robert Bales was the
founder of the Committee on the Middle Fork, an environmental group still
working to preserve, protect, and enjoy the Middle Fork River.
park contains about 3,500 acres, operated by the Vermilion County Conservation
District. There is a swimming beach on Lare Mingo. The Lake and Several
other ponds are also used for boating and fishing. Rental boats are available.
Picnic shelters and playgrounds are provided, as well as hiking trails.
In winter the park offers ice skating, ice fishing, and sledding. There
is also one canoe access area provided on the Middle Fork River. Two historic
buildings, a country church and a one-room school, are also located in
The Middle Fork is a popular canoeing river. There are five canoe access
areas along 14 miles of the Middle Fork River. There are additional canoe
access areas further upstream. You can take a short canoe trip of a few
hours, or make a weekend of it and camp overnight in the campgrounds.
You can also canoe the lakes if you prefer. The canoe rental and livery
makes it convenient to canoe, but you can also bring your own canoe if
you register it in Illinois or your home state.
scenic Middle Fork River with its sand and gravel bottom, boulders, high
bluffs and varied wildlife will capture your attention as you canoe by.
The sand bars provide good resting or picnic spots. The canoe access site
at Bunker Hill bridge provides a picnic area.
course, be sure to properly dispose of all trash in trash cans. Remember
that camping is only allowed in campgrounds. Swimming is not authorized
in the river. It is also a good idea to check the water conditions before
canoeing, since the Middle Fork can have high flows with swift currents
about the town of Danville?
is a city of over 40,000 people, located about five minutes east of the
Middle Fork River. There are many restaurants, several hotels and shopping
areas available in Danville to enhance your visit to the Middle Fork River.
about Kennekuk County Park is available from the Vermilion County
Conservation District, 22296-A Henning Road, Danville, IL 61834, or
by phone at (217) 442-1691.
information on canoe or boat rentals for the Middle Fork River
or area Lakes, contact Kickapoo Canoe Rental, 217-354-2060.
specific information about Kickapoo State Park or Middle Fork
River water conditions, contact the park office at (217) 442-4915.
about the Danville area is available from the Danville Area Convention
and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 992, Danville, IL 61834, or phone
at (217) 442-2096, fax: (217) 442-2137, or toll free (800) 383-4386.
*For information about boat
and canoe registrations in Illinois, call (217) 782-2138.
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity
Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.