Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Return to Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Area

Mississippi River State Fish and Wildlife Area
Grafton, Illinois

A Guide to Area Attractions and Information

All phone numbers are area code 618, unless otherwise specified.


The Mississippi River Area is a composite of 14 wildlife management areas and 11 access areas, scattered along 75 miles of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. These public lands which lie in Calhoun and Jersey Counties were purchased in the 1930's by the Army Corps of Engineers. When Congress approved the nine foot navigation channel for the Upper Mississippi River the Army Corps of Engineers acquired these lands for construction of the present day navigation system. The lock and dam system created a series of navigation pools between the dams, the Mississippi River Area lands lie within navigation pools 25 and 26.

Once the lock and dam system was constructed portions of these lands were offered to the Department of the Interior, US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to be managed for fish and wildlife purposes. Consequently the Fish and Wildlife Service established a series of refuges along both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Then through a cooperative agreement with the various states the FWS offered parcels of land for the states to manage for fish, wildlife and recreational uses. Today the Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages 24,000 acres of this government ground as the Mississippi River Area (MRA) following are brief descriptions of the various sites which make up the MRA.

Rip Rap Landing is the northern most management area, located in pool 25 on the Mississippi between river miles 264 to 266. This 1232 acre site contains 200 acres of water and over 850 acres of woodland, the remaining acreage is made up of some active and some retired crop fields. The 200 acres of water are represented by several ponds and sloughs with 120 acre Waverly Lake the largest water body on the site. A large portion of the woodland acreage is a recognized State Natural Area offering an example of the once abundant bottomland hardwood forest community along the river. The site offers launching ramps for access to the Mississippi river and Waverly lake, parking and toilet facilities. Rip Rap Landing has become the home of an ever expanding population of river otters. Access to the site is from RT. 96 approximately 2 miles north of the town of Mozier.
Reds Landing is located somewhat near the center of pool 25 on the Mississippi River between river miles 252 and 256. The 1100 plus acre site has 180 acres in agricultural production with over 250 acres of water and the remainder is woodland. The water acreage is made up of backwater sloughs with tree lined banks. The largest water body is known as middle and sand sloughs which contain over 125 contiguous acres. Recently the only walk-in flooded green timber waterfowl hunting area on the MRA was developed. There are over 300 acres of flooded ponds and timber for the waterfowl hunter who does not require the comforts afforded by hunting from a blind. There are launching facilities on both the river and middle slough, also parking and toilet facilities. Reds Landing is home to a large heron rookery, has an active Bald Eagles nest and on occasion you can catch a glimpse of a Mississippi Kite. Entrance to the site is from west county road approximately 4 miles south of the town of Hamburg.
Batchtown is at the south end of pool 25 on the Mississippi River, between and lock and dam 25 and river mile 246. Batchtown is 2463 acres with almost 1800 acres of water and the rest is woodland and wet meadow. This site is made up of a large backwater bay, side channels and sloughs which are accessible from the main channel of the river. The public can gain access to the area through Cockrell Hollow located below the town of Batchtown were there is a boat launching facility. Batchtown can be accessed from either west county road or east county highway one to the Batchtown road. During spring and fall migrations you can expect to see a myriad of bird species and in the winter large numbers of Bald Eagles congregate below lock and dam 25. North of the State managed portion of Batchtown is the Batchtown unit of the Mark Twain Federal Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Calhoun Point lies at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers across from the town of Grafton in Calhoun County, the Point lies between river miles 219 and 223 on the Mississippi and mile 2 and 4 on the Illinois.Calhoun Point totals 2215 acres, 322 water and 1739 woodland with the remainder in agriculture. The water bodies are a series of interconnected backwater lakes and sloughs which at one time were open to the river. Boat access is available on Silver and Royal Lakes and Polhman Slough, access to the Mississippi at Royal Landing is the only public access below lock and dam 25. Calhoun Point lies next to the Brussels unit of the Mark Twain Federal Refuge and offers three field pits for goose hunting. The Point is home to the endangered salt meadow grass.
Piasa Island Wildlife Management Area lies between river miles 208 and 211 on the Mississippi River, it consists of two islands Piasa and Eagles Nest. The combined islands equal 400 acres including the Piasa Creek Boat Access Area. This access area was completely refurbished in 1992 and offers the only free public boat access between Alton and Grafton. Piasa Creek Access Area lies along the Great River Road and is a heavily utilized facility.
On the East bank of the Illinois River between river miles 7 and 13 lies the 3580 acre Stump Lake Management Area. At Stump Lake there are 1181 acres of water, 1986 acres of woodland and 400 plus acres of crop fields. The water acreage is made up of six different bodies, Upper and Lower Stump, Flat, Long, Deep and Fowler lakes. Boat access is available at Long Lake Access Area, Dabbs Road Access Area and on the south end of Lower Stump at the Pere Marquette harbor. Illinois Rt. 100 forms the eastern boundary on much of Stump Lake. During the summer months when upper and lower Stump Lakes are drawn down to promote the growth of moist soil plants, these areas are very popular for bird watching. Large numbers of Herons and Egrets concentrate on the shallow waters to take advantage of the easy fish prey. The exposed mudflats attract flocks of shorebirds and the adjacent bluffs are the winter home of many Bald Eagles.
Located north of the Stump Lake area on the same side of the river is the Glades/12-mile Island Management Area. The Glades is 1591 acres in size, it is located between river miles 12 and 15, the area has 1198 acres of woodland and over 300 acres of water. The single water body is broken up with large clumps of buttonbush and a small willow island. Boat access is available to both the Glades proper and the Illinois River, vehicle access is from Route 100. 12-mile Island is located west of the Glades in the Illinois River. The island is 223 acres with six acres of managed water on the south half of the island and the rest is woodland.
On the West bank of the Illinois River between river miles 10 and 13 lies Fuller Lake Management Area. Fuller Lakes almost 1100 acres is made up of 560 acres woodland, 181 acres of agricultural fields and 347 acres of water. The water acreage is contiguous with a few peninsulas which break up the lake into three sections known as Fuller and Upper Swan Lakes and Beaver Pond. Boat access is available at Fuller Lake and also to the Illinois River at Hadley Landing which is located on the road to Fuller Lake. The turn off to Fuller Lake is approximately six miles south of the town of Hardin on East County Road. The Fuller Lake area is on the north end of the Swan Lake which is part of the Mark Twain Federal Refuge system. Fuller and Upper Swan Lakes also offer good shorebird concentrations and in the Fall it is not unusual to see Bald Eagles perched in trees along the access road where they can hunt for fish in the Illinois River.
Immediately North of Fuller Lake and Hadley Landing lies Helmbold Slough, between river miles 13 and 16. Helmbold Slough contains 729 acres, of which 59 are water and 672 are woodland. There is no vehicular access to the water at Helmbold except for a service road utilized by IDNR staff. The 59 acres of water are managed as a seasonal wetland mainly utilized for waterfowl hunting.
North of the town of Hardin is the Godar-Diamond complex which consists of Diamond and Hurricane Islands, Michael Bottoms and the Godar Refuge. Beginning at the south tip of Diamond Island is river mile 23 and at the north tip of Hurricane Island is river mile 29, the refuge and Michael Bottoms are on the west bank of Dark Chute which separates the islands from the shoreline. Hurricane Island is 397 acres, 58 water, 18 agricultural and 321 woodland. Diamond Island contains 657 acres, 292 water, 36 agricultural and 329 woodland. Michael offers 536 acres with 75 water, 90 in agriculture and 371 acres of woodland. There are 1027 acres in the Godar refuge, 327 water, 201 in agriculture and 499 woodland acres, the Godar area is managed as a waterfowl refuge. All of the water acreage in this complex is "managed water", siltation has filled in these backwater lakes to a point where the lakes are in a "perched condition. This is a condition where the lake bottoms are higher then the river at normal low flow. The areas are dewatered through gravity drains which allows moist soil plants to germinate. These plants produce seed which are highly attractive to waterfowl, then in early fall water is pumped into the areas providing hundreds of acres of wetland habitat. The Godar-Diamond area is the most popular waterfowl hunting area at the Mississippi River Area. There are boat ramps at Godar-Diamond and Michael Landing Access Areas which provide access to Dark Chute, there is also a ramp to access Michael Bottoms. The Islands are accessible by boat pullovers located in Dark Chute. The entire complex lies along State Route 100 from north of Hardin to the village of Michael.
The rest of the Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Area is made up of islands and riparian habitats along both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. While these areas are not actively managed they are available for public hunting.

The waterfowl hunting program is the most intensively managed activity at the MRA. There are 360 blind sites allocated for a three year period, five of the areas have check stations and the rest operate under statewide regulations except closing times at Fuller Lake and Helmbold Slough coincide with the check station areas. Batchtown, Stump Lake, Godar-Diamond, Calhoun Point and Glades /12-mile are check station areas where hunting ends at 3:30 PM CST. Hunters at the check station areas have until one hour before shooting time to claim their blind for the day. At one hour before shooting time any blinds not claimed are available by a daily drawing. Locations which do not have check stations blind builders must occupy their blind by one-half hour before shooting time or the blind is available to anyone by occupation.

    Deer hunting is also popular in the acres of bottomland forest along the rivers. All that is required is a county permit and deer hunters must remain 200 yards from a duck blind.
    Spring turkey season is also available, however, the entire Mississippi River Area is subject to annual spring floods. The level and the duration of the floods dictate availability of area and birds, typically when flooding occurs the turkeys leave the bottoms for the hill ground.
    Annually, sunflower and small grains are planted to attract doves. The dove program allows hunting from noon till 5 PM for the first five days after which you can hunt by statewide hours. Beginning in 1998 steel shot will be required for dove hunting.
    All other hunting seasons are covered by statewide regulations, any of these seasons which coincide with duck season requires that the hunters remain 200 yards from the duck blinds. The fact that the site is annually impacted by flooding prohibits the development of large populations of upland species, however, hunting for these species is allowed but usually not very productive.


From Chicago -- Take I-55 south and proceed as if from Springfield
Take I-57 south to I-72 in Champaign. Follow I-72 west to Springfield. Proceed using directions from Springfield.

From Springfield - Follow I-55 south to Route 16 at Litchfield. Take 16 west to Route 100, about 13 miles west of Jerseyville. Turn left (south) and remain on Rte. 100 for about 5 miles. Mississippi River Area Headquarters will be on your left hand side. Office hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8am to 4pm and Tuesday and Thursday when you can catch someone in.

From St. Louis - Cross the Mississippi River on McKinley Bridge or the Popular Street Bridge. Take Route 3 north to Alton. In Alton, exit to Route 143 (West). Stay on 143 until you pass the Alton Belle Casino on your left. Then follow the signs for the Great River Road (Route 100) to Pere Marquette State Park. Remain on the Great River Road heading west/north for about 20 miles, passing through the town of Grafton and past the Brussels Ferry, pass by Pere Marquette Lodge for approximately 5 miles, (MRA) Headquarters will be on the right side of the road.
Take I-270 to 367 North and cross the Missouri River, then the Mississippi River on the Clark Bridge. Turn left at the light, and go past the Alton Belle Casino (on your left). Turn left onto Route 100, as above.


Brussels Ferry - This is a free ferry operated by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The ferry takes cars across the Illinois River from Route 100 to Calhoun County. This ferry is located about 4 miles southwest of Pere Marquette State Park, and it operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Golden Eagle Ferry - This ferry takes vehicles across the Mississippi River between Calhoun County in Illinois and St. Charles County in Missouri. The fee is $8.00 per car. To reach the Golden Eagle from Pere Marquette State Park, take Route 100 southwest and cross the Brussels Ferry. Follow that road through Deer Plain and continue on until you see a sign pointing you toward the Golden Eagle Ferry. You will turn left off the main road at this point. Continue on until you see the ferry. Operates 5:30 A.M. to 8 P.M. Monday through Friday; 8 A.M. to 9 P.M. weekends and holidays.

Kampsville Ferry - About 25 miles north of Pere Marquette State Park, the Kampsville Ferry takes passengers across the Illinois River to Kampsville in Calhoun County. To reach this free ferry from Pere Marquette State Park, take Route 100 north to Route 16. Follow Route 16 to Eldred Road (also called Hill View Road), and into Eldred. Turn left onto Route 108 in Eldred. It is about another 3 miles to the ferry. Operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Winfield Ferry - Crosses the Mississippi River into Missouri on Route 79. To reach the Winfield Ferry from Pere Marquette State Park, cross the Brussels Ferry and follow signs leading to Route 79 and Winfield, Missouri. This ferry is only open when the Golden Eagle Ferry is closed. Fee per car is $8.00. Ferry operates 5 A.M. to 9 P.M. April through October; 5 A.M. to 8 P.M. November through March; 5 A.M. to 7 P.M. winter hours.



Camping is not allowed on any Mississippi River Area Sites

See Pere Marquette State Park



Approximately 230 species of birds have been identified within, at the boundaries of, or flying over Pere Marquette State Park during the past 35 years. This information has been accumulated for all seasons of the year by many observers. A checklist was prepared by Helen Wuestenfeld in cooperation with the Division of Natural Heritage of the former Department of Conservation (now Department of Natural Resources). A copy of this checklist is available in the Park office or the Visitor Center. For further information regarding the bird species found in this area, contact Ms. Wuestenfeld at 498-5335.

Pere Marquette State Park also offers birders several optimal locations for observing avian species. Stump Lake is one popular location. Other suitable locations are found throughout the Park, especially the scenic overlooks on the drive through the park, and the shelter at McAdams Peak.


The Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, gets its name from the all white, or 'bald', head of the adult bird. Adult eagles are recognized by their white head and tail feathers, the remainder of the body feathers being dark brown. Immature eagles have all brown feathers, which are molted to reveal the white feathers characteristic of the adults at 4 to 5 years of age. Wingspan of an adult eagle is 6 to 7 feet!

Bald eagles breed primarily in the northern U.S. and parts of Canada, Alaska, and Florida. In the winter, migrations find the birds throughout the continental U.S., Alaska, and southern Canada. The eagles found in this area primarily breed in the upper Great Lakes region, and begin arriving here in November. Peak eagle viewing times at the Park are January and February.

Bald eagle females lay 1 to 3 eggs in a very large nest. Eggs incubate about 35 days before hatching. Adults pair for life, and use the same nest annually. Bald eagles have eyesight 5 to 6 times sharper than humans. They feed primarily on fish, which is why they are dependant on habitat close to rivers and lakes and can frequently be found in areas where large boats are moving about i.e. ferry landings

In Illinois, Bald Eagles are a threatened species as defined in the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act. The good news for the Eagles is that both the federal and state listings of the species have been downgraded from endangered to threatened.

Two birds that may be mistaken for a bald eagle are Turkey Vultures, which migrate out of this area by December, and Golden Eagles, which are a rare sight around here.


	Approximate seasons (not all fruit available at all orchards - call for details):

		Red Raspberries			mid-June to early July

		Blueberries			late June to early July

		Blackberries			mid-July to mid-August

		Peaches  			opens mid-August

		Apples				September and October

		Pumpkins			mid-October through November

		Christmas trees			mid-November through Christmas

		Eckert's Orchard		786-3445

		Plummer Berry Farm		786-2109

		Joe Ringhausen Orchards		376-6772 or 498-6951

		Tom Ringhausen Orchards		576-2311 or 576-9203

		Uncle Andy's Produce Ranch	786-3305


The Alton Belle Casino is a gaming riverboat on the Mississippi River. The Alton Belle offers slots, video poker blackjack, roulette, and much more. There is also an off-track betting parlor for both thoroughbred and harness racing. The Alton Belle cruises seven days a week. The Alton Landing serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For cruise times and more information, call 1-800-336-7568.



Alton Marina
Covered slips available, transient reservations welcome. #1 Henry St., Alton. For further information, please call 462-9860.

Loading Dock
Waverunner and boat rental, and Mid-Rivers Parasailing available. Gas pump available for boats. Located on Front Street, Grafton. 786-8359

Mariner Junction
Front St., Grafton

Pere Marquette State Park
Pere Marquette Marina has three launching ramps available to the public, when the area is not flooded. The boat docks will be installed before Memorial Day weekend, if at all possible. Dredging was completed in the Fall of 1996. Courtesy docks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Boats may be docked for 14 days, but may not be left unattended for more than 24 hours. No electricity is currently available to the docks. Further details may be obtained by calling the Park Office at 786-3323.

Piasa Harbor
Western Boat and Motors, Inc. Piasa Crk., Alton 466-7501


(Prices effective July, 1997. Please call for current rates.)

Alton Municipal Golf Course
Golf Rd., Alton 465-9861
9 holes - $7.50 non-resident cart rental - $8.00

Centennial Golf
1374 Centennial Rd., Jerseyville 498-3178
9 holes - $8.00 week days $9.00 weekends cart rental $6.00 per person
18 holes - $12.00 week days $13.00 weekends cart rental $10.00 per person

Clover Leaf Golf Course
Fosterburg Rd., Alton 462-3022
9 holes - $6.00 62+ $7.50 weekdays $8.50 weekend $8.00 cart rental
18 holes - $10.00 62+ $13.00 weekdays $15.00 weekend $16.00 cart rental

Rock Springs Golf Course
Rock Springs Park, Alton 465-9898
9 holes - $7.50 non-resident cart rental $4.00 per person or $4.50 if 1 person

Spencer T. Olin Golf Course
4701 College Ave., Alton 465-3111
18 holes - $50.00 weekdays $56.00 weekends before 1:00 P.M.
$46.00 weekends after 1:00 P.M.
Cart rental included in green fees

West Lake Country Club
private 498-3277
by reciprocal agreement only.


"The Piasa bird is said to have flown over the "Great Father of Waters" thousands of moons before the white man came, when magolonyn and mastodon were still living." The Piasa, or Piusa, means "the bird that devours men" or "bird of the evil spirit". Early drawings depict it as part bird, reptile, mammal, and fish. The colors used in early paintings symbolize war and vengeance (red), death and despair (black), and hope and triumph over death (green).

The original Piasa bird was 40 to 50 feet high on the sandstone strata of the limestone bluffs, incised into the rock and later painted. The most enduring and fascinating legend was written by John Russell in 1836. It begins:

    Before the village of the Illini, the mighty river swept to the south, clear and fresh. The surrounding woods were rich with game. The bluffs and the mighty trees shielded the Illini from the harsh winds that sometimes swept in from the north. Their village was a secure and happy place. Chief of the Illini was Ouatoga (Watoga). He was old and had led his tribe in the ways of peace for most of his lifetime. Ouatoga and his people loved their home and their way of life. Then one morning, as the sun began to climb towards the summit of its cloudless sky, terror touched the Illini. The village stirred. A number of younger braves were leaving on an early morning fishing expedition. Some were already on the river in their canoes, others preparing to embark, when suddenly the very earth seemed to shudder with the sound of an alien scream.

    Out of the Western sky came a gigantic flying monster. Its body was much the size and shape of a horse; long, white fangs stabbed upward from the protruding lower jaw and flames leaped from its nostrils; two white, deer-like horns angled wickedly from its head. Its huge wings pounded the air with such force the trees bent; its stubby legs held dagger-like talons and its spiked tail wound around the grotesque body three times.

    Almost before the braves realized their danger, the beast, soon to be named the Piasa Bird, swooped across the beach and carried one away. From that moment on, the Illini were terrorized by this incredible and blood-thirsty monster. Each morning and afternoon thereafter, the Piasa Bird came, shattering the peace of the village with its blood-chilling screams and the thunderous beat of its wings. More often than not, it returned to its lair with a victim.

    The Illini looked to their chief, Ouatoga, for a solution to this menace. Time and time again he had led them through the trials of famine, illness, and the threat of warlike tribes. But Ouatoga felt helpless before this danger and the years weighed heavily upon him. The beast seemed invulnerable. His body was covered with scales, like a coat-of-mail. The best efforts of Tera-hi-on-a-wa-ka, the arrow maker, and the tribe's finest archers were to no avail.

    Then Ouatoga appealed to the Great Spirit. For nearly a full moon he prayed and fasted. Then in a dream he found the answer. The body of the Piasa Bird was not protected under the wings. After offering thanks to the Great Spirit, Ouatoga called the tribe together and devised a plan that could destroy the Piasa Bird. All that day Tera-hi-on-a-wa-ka sharpened arrowheads and painted them with poison while the tribe fasted and prayed. That night, Ouatoga and six of the finest braves crept to the top of the high bluff overlooking the Great Father of Waters. When dawn came only Ouatoga was visible, standing straight and firm in full view. The braves were hidden nearby behind a rock ledge, bows ready.

    Suddenly, the scream of the Piasa Bird broke the silence and the winged monster swept into view. Immediately it sighted Ouatoga and with what seemed a shriek of delight, it pounced. As it did, Ouatoga fell to the ground and grasped the strong roots that grew there. The pain of the talons sinking into his flesh inspired him to grip the roots even more tightly. As the Piasa Bird raised its great wings in an effort to carry off its victim, the six braves stepped from their hiding place and shot six poisoned arrows into the unprotected place beneath the beast's wings. Again and again the bird raised its wings to fly. But Ouatoga held fast and each time six poisoned arrows drove into the bird's vulnerable spot. Finally, the poison did its job. With a scream of agony, the Piasa Bird released its hold on Ouatoga and plunged down the bluff to disappear forever in the swift waters of the great river.

    Carefully, tenderly, the braves carried Ouatoga to his tepee where, in time, he was nursed back to health. Then a great celebration was held in the camp of the Illini. The next day, Tera-hi-on-a-wa-ka mixed paints and, carrying them to the bluff, painted a picture of the Piasa Bird in tribute to the victory of Ouatoga and the Illini. Every time an Indian passed the painting, he shot an arrow in salute to the bravery of Ouatoga and deliverance from the Piasa Bird.

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