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Big River State Forest


Big River State Forest in western Illinois’ Henderson County is 8 miles north of Oquawka on the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop. The forest is managed primarily to demonstrate sound forestry practices, with demonstrations and talks on these practices available to interested groups.

Area
Big River State Forest in western Illinois’ Henderson County is 8 miles north of Oquawka on the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop. The forest is managed primarily to demonstrate sound forestry practices, with demonstrations and talks on these practices available to interested groups.
 
History
The 200-acre Oquawka Refuge, acquired by the state in 1925, contains the area’s oldest pine plantation. Established in 1928 and known as the Milroy Plantation, the 17-acre area contains red, white and jack pines that tower more than 50 feet high. Subsequent land purchases, beginning in 1941 and 1942, and a lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have brought the forest to 2,900 acres.
 
Natural Features
Big River State Forest is a remnant of a vast prairie woodland border area that once covered much of Illinois. Among its vegetation are two endangered plants - penstemon, commonly known as bearded tongue, and Patterson’s bindweed, which N.H. Patterson documented in 1873, for the first time anywhere, in the forest.
 
Common plants found in the prairie are big and little bluestem, Indian grass, June grass, grama grass, flower-of-an-hour, cottonweed, prairie coneflower, pale prairie coneflower, prairie bush clover, purple prairie clover and blazing star. Also found are western sunflower, kittentail, lead plant, prickly pear cactus, flowering spurge, aromatic sumac, false dragonhead, Sullivan’s milkweed, horsemint, goat’s-rue and hoary puccoon.
 
Timber Stand Conversion
To demonstrate the feasibility of growing profitable pine forests on the type of sandy soil found in the area, much of the forest has been converted from scrub hardwood to pine. This "timber stand conversion" consists of removing scrub hardwood, salvaging the saleable material for pulpwood, controlling hardwood reproduction and planting rapidly growing white and red pines. Many area landowners have adopted these conversion practices and established hundreds of thriving pine plantations throughout the area.
 
Forest Fires
A prominent landmark in the forest is its fire tower, located at the headquarters area. Fire fighting crews and equipment also stand ready to protect the forest during peak fire periods.
 
To separate the forest into manageable components, 60 miles of firebreaks interlace Big River State Forest. When fires aren’t a threat, hikers and horseback riders appreciate the diverse scenery the firebreak trails provide.

Activities

Boating and Fishing
Three boat launches are located along the Mississippi River. Boat rentals are not provided. Boat and bank fishing are allowed. Among the fish most commonly found are crappie, bass, carp, buffalo, channel catfish, bluegill and bullhead.  In the winter, ice fishing is a popular sport along Spring Slough, north of Putney’s Landing.
 
Camping
Tent and trailer sites are available at the Shady Pines area. All campers must obtain a permit from the park office. Group camping is allowed, but groups of 25 or more must receive advance permission from the site manager.

Hiking
Big Pines Trail provides an enjoyable 3 1/2-mile hike on 3 trails: Lincolns Trail, Wilderness Trail, and Big Pines Trail. In addition, the 60-mile network of firebreaks is used by hikers, backpackers, birders and nature study groups.
 
Horseback Riding
Horseback riders also put the firebreaks to good use. Equestrians must stay on designated trails. Horse rentals are available.
 
Hunting
With the Mississippi River providing water and prime habitat offered by the forest, Big River supports a diversity of wildlfie, including white-tailed deer and numerous small game species such as quail, squirrels and rabbits. To supplement existing food and improve habitat for upland game, food plots are planted annually. During the waterfowl hunting season, the Mississippi River is popular for its wood ducks, blue- and green-winged teal, mallards and Canada geese.

Picnicking
Several picnic areas exist along Campbell Slough and Putney’s Landing, with shelter houses, tables, camp stoves and drinking water available.

Snowmobiling
Big River State Forest has 30 miles of marked trails.
Scenic Drives - Winding through the forest are 15 miles of scenic roadways.



Big River State Forest is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media

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