CENTRAL REGION 3 MAP |
Lake Eagles, ospreys, turkey vultures and many kinds of
waterfowl can be seen as you hike the 23 miles of trails at Clinton
Lake. Your travels here take you past a prairie restoration area,
through pines, along rolling shoreline and across intermittent streams.
Timbered hardwood areas make for some gorgeous fall scenery, but
sights along one of the trails can be enjoyed only by seasoned,
experienced hikers. North Fork Trail at 9.3 miles is long and difficult
with very steep slopes. If peacefulness and beautiful country are
what you crave, North Fork Trail at Clinton Lake could be just your
Creek and Wolf Creek at Lake Shelbyville. Five scenic miles
of trails provide tranquil and refreshing sojourns in the forests
at Eagle Creek State Park at Lake Shelbyville. Also at Eagle Creek
is a 12-mile backpack trail and 3 miles of cross-country ski trails.
Nearby at Wolf Creek State Park, there are an additional 9 miles
of hiking trails, plus a 15.5-mile horse trail many people enjoy
walking and snowmobiling in the winter. There is a 3-mile cross-country
ski trail for winter fun. See where Unusual Tree Trail gets its
name and enjoy a scenic coveís still waters from an observation
deck. You may wish to bring your camera. Deer counting is a favorite
pastime among hikers, and birders who come to view the bluebirds,
purple martins and orioles are seldom disappointed.
Fox Ridge When it
comes to hiking trails, Fox Ridge State Park is one of those places
that literally has it all. There are nine interconnecting hiking
trails totaling 6.5 miles that range from easy for beginners or
family hikers to strenuous for those more experienced. (Everyone,
by the way, is advised to pack along a canteen.) Fox Ridge also
sports a physical fitness trail that challenges you to perform calisthenics
and complete an obstacle course along its way. In addition, a team
building trail, requiring a special facilitator and the permission
of the site superintendent, is available to groups. A trail for
the disabled has a hard and compacted surface for wheelchair accessibility.
Wildlife observers love the area for its 140 species of birds, including
pileated woodpeckers, its foxes, coyotes and flying squirrels, and
its amphibians and reptiles. Each fall, wooded ravines feature the
autumnal beauties of sycamore, basswood and maple. But donít
think that because Fox Ridge is located in east-central Illinois,
the area is flat. Actually, there are about a half-mileís
worth of stairways along the trails, some of them more than 200
steps. As you hike, keep repeating to yourself, ìThis is
central Illinois, this is central Illinois.î
Springs Rocky Springs and Quicksand Springs are only two
of the many springs hikers encounter at Hidden Springs State Forest.
The aquatic spring vegetation these areas offer is, to say the least,
unusual, but to get there and elsewhere along the forestís
trail system requires moderate hiking ability. Two nature trails,
Possum Hollow and Big Tree, are self-guiding and feature their own
brochures. In all, Hidden Springs offers four marked trails totaling
5.5 miles, but those who truly love to wander might take to the
25 miles of firelanes also available. Of the forestís 1,100
acres, 800 are in hardwood timber, the rest in pine, with wildflowers
plentiful each spring. Stop by the park office for a bird checklist
before you begin, then let songbirds serenade your journey through
Wildlife Area Deer and upland game keep hunters coming back
to the Iroquois County State Wildlife Area each fall and winter,
but itís hiking country the rest of the year. More than 3
miles of marked trails, all easy to negotiate, invite you to observe
prairie marsh and sand dune vegetation and accompanying wildlife.
A quarter-mile portion of the Woodland Trail has a gravel-packed
surface for wheelchair use. Among the areaís many inhabitants
are rare Henslowís sparrows, pheasant and quail, and try
to spot sandhill cranes as they migrate in the spring. Summer splashes
the prairie with colorful wildflowers and causes big bluestem to
grow taller than Abe himself, while fall color usually occurs in
late September or early October. Hikers are restricted to the Nature
Preserve Trail during November and December.
View Two half-mile trails (one is a self-guiding nature
trail) are part of the hiking system at Moraine View State Park.
Another trail, moderate Tall Timber at 1.5 miles, has 10 primitive
campsites along its route. Join the birdwatchers who find Moraine
View such a great place to engage in their hobby. Wood ducks and
Canada geese nest here, and beavers have been known to build a dam
or two. From its rolling terrain surrounding the lake, to its woods,
prairies and marshes, Moraine View is a pleasant spot for a day
Wildlife Management Area For viewing marsh, woodland and
prairie birds, few places can top Shelbyville Wildlife Management
Area. Fishhook Nature Trail is a 4.5-mile, self-guiding hike that
takes you completely around a waterfowl area and to an observation
deck. The best times to observe a variety of wildlife are in October,
prior to waterfowl season, and in April. Trails are not closed to
hikers during hunting season, so wear blaze orange during that time.
Thereís poison ivy, but the wildflowers and re-established
prairie areas more than make up for it in the vegetative scheme
Woods You may think of Spitler Woods Natural Area as a good
place to observe and appreciate nature. Youíd be right, of
course, since Spitler Woods offers 2.5-mile Squirrel Creek Trail,
whose brochure guides you through the areaís very old timber
groves and woodland wildlife habitat. Wheelchair access is offered
on another trail, Red Oak Ramble, and visually impaired hikers can
request an audio cassette to guide them along the way. But in addition
to the typical sights and sounds associated with a natural area,
there are those usually associated with a health club. A half-mile-long
exercise and jogging trail at Spitler Woods offers you a complete
12-station cardiovascular workout. Just remember, although your
dog may jog with you elsewhere, pets must be leashed at all times
in the stateís natural areas and parks.
Springs Birders love Weldon Springs State Park, which tells
you something about the variety of birds found there. But wildlife
observers and nature lovers of all kinds enjoy the parkís
wealth of beauty. Self-guiding Lakeside Nature Trail winds for 2
miles around the lake and features 29 interpretive stations. Its
stairways and footbridges give it a moderately difficult rating.
Salt Creek Backpack Trail, also moderate, is 4 miles long. In all,
there are approximately 7 miles of trails, some of which double
as cross-country ski trails in winter, something to keep in mind
next time the white stuff falls.
Trails At Kickapoo
State Park hikers will find the 7.6-mile Out and Back Trail
a real challenge. The trail is marked every quarter-mile. As the
trail winds through prairie, meadows, woodlands, up and down hills
and across the Middle Fork River, you will see all types of wildlife.
Try Clear Pond Trail or River View Trail to view the natural reclamation
of the strip mines at Kickapoo. Over 12 miles of signed trails are
available. Varying grades lend half-mile-long Beech Tree Trail and
2-mile-long Sand Ford Nature Trail a lot of interest at Lincoln
Trail State Park, where spring and autumn are always colorful.
A hiking trail winds along the Sangamon River at Lincoln
Trail Homestead, where a variety of interesting birds, small
animals and wildflowers may be observed. The trail may be reached
via any of three stairways leading down into the river bottom. Care
should be taken when walking near the river bank as undercutting
by the river current may cause unstable areas. Hikers can glimpse
into the past as they hike the 1.75-mile Whispering Pines trail
at Walnut Point State Park.
This moderate trail winds through the Upper Embarras Woods Nature
Preserve giving hikers a view of a forest at or near presettlement
condition. The nature preserve is home to a state champion Pignut
Hickory, and with the Embarras River as its southern boundary hikers
may catch a glimpse of one of the Pileated Woodpeckers that can
be found here. Lakeside Trail is a .5-mile handicap accessible trail.
The asphalt surface makes it a good choice in all weather conditions.
The trail meanders through a good quality forested natural area
situated between Walnut Point Lake and a prairie restoration. The
location and quality of the site make this an ideal choice for birders
or someone wanting to learn more about Illinois trees. A self-guided
trail map identifying some of the trees is available at the trail
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