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  Mackinaw River Ecosystem Partnership   

The Mackinaw River Project was coordinated by The Nature Conservancy and received Ecosystem Partnership designation on May 8th, 1996. The Mackinaw River Basin boasts a long and rich history. The elevated lands of the area have been inhabited since about 10,000 B.C. Several Americans Indians tribes, such as the Potawatomi, Chippewa, Ottawa, and Kickapoo dwelled along the river. The name Mackinaw was bestowed by early inhabitants, the Ojibways, and means turtle.

One of the earliest accounts of the river was composed by Patrick Kennedy in 1773, "The land is high on the eastern bank of the river, but on the western are large plains or meadows, extending as far as can be seen, covered with fine grass." Today these meadows of rich and productive soils are used for agriculture, 77 percent of the Mackinaw River watershed is prosperous crop lands.

"Someday, I’m going to fulfill a dream and float the Mackinaw for two or three days, fishing along the way."–John Husar, Outdoor writer for the Chicago Tribune

Unique Features and Resources
The Mackinaw River Basin is:

  • One of the sites for river otter reintroduction. During April of 1996, twenty-eight otters were released along the Mackinaw
  • Home to three state threatened or endangered species: the chorus frog, western hognose snake, and mud turtle.
  • Its biological stream characterization is "A," the highest possible.
  • Contains 527 significant archaeological sites.
  • The only central Illinois location for the state endangered heart-leaf plantain.

Notable Sites in the Area

  • Chinquapin Bluffs
  • Danvers Geological Area
  • Green Valley Site
  • Indian Creek Woods
  • Log Cabin Hill Prairies
  • Mackinaw River Fish and Wildlife Area
  • Manito Habitat Area
  • Mehl’s Bluff Nature Preserve
  • ParkLands Nature Preserve Ridgetop Hill Prairie Preserve Sparks Pond

About the Partnership
Concern about the condition of the Mackinaw began in the 1950’s when the Mackinaw Valley Improvement Association (MVIA) was formed to deal with problems on the river. From 1991 to 1993 the Nature Conservancy worked with a number of agencies to discuss strategies for gaining scientific consensus, and setting priorities for protection and restoration of the Mackinaw River. The Nature Conservancy then collaborated with Prairie Rivers RC&D, and formed alliances with the MVIA. Designated as an Ecosystems Partnership in 1996, the groups’ mission is to "preserve and enhance the natural resources of the Mackinaw River watershed through education, good management practices and voluntary cooperation while respecting property owner rights."

  • Current Projects Include
    Restoring 559 acres to its natural pre-settlement wetland state.
  • Creating a greenway of water and open space in a 2.0 mil corridor to protect biological diversity.
  • Protecting and restoring a functioning oxbow slough and its surrounding areas.



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