Saline County State Fish
& Wildlife Area, 5 miles southeast of Equality in southeastern Illinois,
was the site of springs and wells that furnished brine for one of the
two salt works. Although the springs and wells are
not visible today, the area primarily is a recreational site. The initial acquisition
of 524 acres of land was made in 1959 by the state of Illinois, and the
total acreage now totals 1,270 acres, including a beautiful 105-acre lake.
Salt is the theme of the
early history in the area around Equality in Gallatin County. One of several
counties originally part of Gallatin, Saline County takes its
name from the salt works. American Indians made salt here long before
the first settlers appeared. In 1803 the Indians ceded their "Great
Salt Springs" to the United States by treaty. Congress refused to
sell the salt lands in the public domain but did authorize the Secretary
of the Treasury to lease them to individuals for a royalty. The leases
required the holder to produce a certain quantity of salt each year, or
pay a penalty.
Although the northwest ordinance
prohibited slavery in this area, special territorial laws and a constitutional
provision permitted exceptions at these salines. The leasees brought in
slaves or indentured servants and used them extensively in manufacturing
salt. The census of 1820 for Gallatin County listed 239 slaves or servants.
In 1818, as part of the process
of making a new state, Congress gave the salines to Illinois but forbade
the sale of the land. The state continued to lease the springs and used
the revenue to finance part of its operating expenses. Eventually Congress
allowed the outright sale of the land. The commercial production of salt
made the expense of extracting it from the brine prohibitive.
O. Jones Lake, with a maximum depth of 35 feet and a 2.7 mile shoreline, is the focal point of the area. The lake was named for a prominent
Saline County citizen who served in the Illinois General
Assembly. Senator Jones also was twice elected state's attorney of Saline County
and was a member of various social and fraternal organizations.
Saline County State Fish
& Wildlife Area is a combination of bottomland bordering the Saline River
and hilly land bordering the Shawnee National Forest. The rugged, rocky
hills are heavily timbered and surrounded by brushy areas that provide
cover for quail and rabbits. Waterfowl also use the bottomland areas when
the streams overflow and water is available. Several wood ducks nest on
the river, slough and lake.
For more information on hunting
facilities see the Saline
County Hunter Fact Sheet | Sahara
Woods Fact Sheet
Facilities include picnic areas
scattered around the lake with tables, drinking water and fireplaces.
A concession stand provides a variety of sundries, boat rentals
and fishing bait.
A large camping
area accomodates both tent and trailer campers. A trailer disposal is available, but
electricity is not available. Campers must obtain a camping permit
from site personnel upon arrival. An equestrian campground also exists.
The lake contains a variety
of fish including largemouth bass, bluegill, redear, crappie and channel
catfish. Two launching ramps, two docks are available, and the concession stand offers boat rentals. The motor limit is 10 HP.
Four designated hiking trails are designated--Lake, Cave Hill, River and Wildlife Nature Trail offer 9 miles for a scenic exploration. The site has several miles of horse trails and a separate campground for riders and their horses is available.
To reach Saline County State Fish & Wildlife
Area, take Rt. 13 East from Harrisburg, turn right onto Rt 142, travel
1 mile, turn right, drive 5 miles to the Park entrance. From Eldorado,
go south on Rt. 142 approximately 7 miles, turn right just past the Saline
County State Fish & Wildlife sign and travel 5 miles to the park.
From the Ohio River bridge at Shawneetown, travel west on Rt. 13 to Rt.
142, turn left, drive 1 mile and turn right again just past the park sign
and drive 5 miles on the blacktop to the park.
- 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 Commerce and Community
Affairs' 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.