Update: Due to extreme weather conditions and flash flooding, the entire Middle Fork area including the horse camp and trails are closed until further notice.
The Middle Fork State Fish & Wildlife Area
is located 6 miles north of the Interstate 74 exit at Oakwood in Vermilion County. The area
consists of 2,700 acres of grass, forest and cropland, and provides excellent
wildlife habitat. The area is bounded on the east by Kennekuk Cove County
Park and on the south by Illinois Power Company's Vermilion Station. The
site received its name from the Middle Fork branch of the Vermilion River
which flows between Kennekuk Cove County Park and Middle Fork State Fish
& Wildlife Area. The Middle Fork River passes out of the Middle Fork Wildlife
Area into Kickapoo State Recreation Area about
10 miles downstream. At Kickapoo you can enjoy family camping, picnicking,
fishing, boating, mountain biking and rent a horse for a short trail ride.
Much of the land which now makes up the Middle
Fork State Fish & Wildlife Area was purchased in the late 1960s and early
1970s, along with lands that now are parts of Kennekuk Cove County Park
and Kickapoo State Park, for a 3,300-acre water supply and recreation
reservoir. In 1977, the State concluded that it could not afford to fund
the reservoir and discussions were initiated to determine alternative public
uses of the land. In 1978, an agreement was reached
between the State and Vermilion County Conservation District to trade
lands in order to achieve contiguous and manageable land holdings. A management
plan was completed the same year, designating the Middle Fork property
as a State Fish & Wildlife Area. Land transfers placing the property
under the management
of the Department of Natural Resources were completed in 1986.
The Middle Fork River
offers the angler opportunities for such species as smallmouth bass, bluegill,
sunfish, crappie, channel catfish, walleye and bullhead. Access to the
river is by footpaths at Kinney's Ford, Higginsville Bridge and Bunker
Large populations of upland game make the
Middle Fork State Fish & Wildlife Area popular with many hunters.
Generally, federal and Illinois game regulations regarding seasons, bag
limits and huntable species apply in all parts of the park. However,
special regulations apply to some species. All hunters must register before
hunting the area. Hunter
There are 35 miles of marked scenic equestrian,
cross-country skiing and snowmobiling trails in the Middle Fork State
Fish & Wildlife Area, and 9 miles of designated hiking trails are available
at nearby Kickapoo State Park. All marked trails are accessible from the
parking lot near the office at 2400N, just off Road 900E.
Public parking and canoe access to the Middle
Fork River is provided at two locations. The Kinney's Ford access
is located in the northern section of the facility and may be reached
by driving 0.5 mile west of the 2620N/900E intersection. The Bunker
Hill canoe access may be reached by driving east on the facility's south
access road located at 2250N/900E. The west entrace bridge at Kickapoo
State Park provides a canoe take-out point for these access areas. Camping
is prohibited along the river, except in designated campgrounds.
Small day-use areas are located near the
campgrounds, office and canoe accesses, providing picnic tables and rustic
sanitary facilities. Canoeists, hikers and anglers also may prefer to
picnic along the river or trails. Properly dispose
of all litter. Shelters cannot be reserved, they are available on a first come-first serve basis.
The Middle Fork State Fish
& Wildlife area has Class C, D and equestrian camping facilities. Other
classes of camping also are available at nearby Kickapoo State Park.
state park facilities are readily accessible from the Kickapoo canoe
point at the park's west entrance. Kickapoo is located 5 miles south
of the Middle Fork State Fish & Wildlife Area.
Range and Archery Trail
To help hunters sharpen their
skills and provide compatible recreational opportunities, a trap range
and an archery trail have been constructed.
The trap range is located
along road 2400N near the site office. It consists of two ranges
with a table and bench. Throwers are not provided. Shot size No. 6 or
smaller must be used. The range usually is open year-round.
The archery trail is located 0.25 miles west of intersection 2620N/900E. The trail includes 20
targets constructed in a loop through the woods, a tower for simulated
tree stand shooting and a measured target. The use of broadhead tips is
not allowed. The trail is open year-round.
Both ranges have picnic tables
and rustic sanitary facilities available.
The Middle Fork State Fish
& Wildlife Area has a planned wildlife program which includes a cropland
lease agreement with local farmers. The program also emphasizes forestry
practices compatible with good wildlife management.
and Historic Features
deep glacial till that composes the area accounts for the extensive entrenchment
of the Middle Fork River. The prominent moraine involved is the Newtown
loop of the Bloomington End Moraine. The rather rugged roll and cut of
the land causes fairly quick drainage of the uplands. This, in turn, yields
an upland of oak-hickory climax forest, although this basin is a part
of the Wabash Border Division, which separates the grand prairie on the
west from the beech-maple forest that covers much of the east.
The river is deemed by ecological
research experts as one of the most pristine in the state and has been
designated a National Wild and Scenic River. The lower reach, is
almost entirely sand and gravel bottomed. Not only are there good populations
of game fish such as smallmouth bass, crappie and channel catfish present, the
Vermillion River system also is the only known habitat in Illinois of
the bluebreast darter, an Illinois endangered species.
The Middle Fork State
Fish & Wildlife Area is comprised of
three elements: river flood plain, upland forest and upland fields. Some
flood plains and upland fields are cropped. A well-balanced food chain
exists from field mice and moles tocottontail rabbits, foxes, hawks and
owls. Huntable populations exist of pheasant, quail, rabbit, squirrel, deer and furbearing mammals. Waterfowl, shorebirds, egrets and herons, are common in the bottomlands. The
upland woods are frequented by warblers, vireos, and the most common songbirds.
The elusive southeastern shrew also is found in the area.
Middle Fork River was designated a State and National Scenic River
in 1990, and includes, a 1,000-foot scenic corridor along the river. The scenic river designation begins at the northern boundary of the
Middle Fork State Fish & Wildlife Area and extends through Kennekuk Cove
County Park, Illinois Power Company property and on through Kickapoo State
Park, where it ends at the park's south boundary.
Areas of natural interest for photographers and wildlife watchers include Collison
Creek Marsh, Indian Grass Prairie, Skunk Cabbage Seep and Orchid Hill,
which is partially owned by Illinois Power Company.
- 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.