8588 State Rte. 148, Marion, Illinois
At this extensive watery refuge (43,890 acres), a stopping place for migratory waterfowl on the Mississippi Flyway, sharecropping arrangements with local farmers specify that certain amounts of milo, corn, soybeans, and clover be left in the fields for the vast flights of Canada geese and ducks alighting here.
Common loons, green herons, turkey vultures, and yellow-crowned night herons can usually be found here as well, and the refuge is a nesting site for bald eagles and many kinds of songbirds. Two observation towers on Crab Orchard Lake offer excellent views of waterfowl and occasionally of other wildlife.
Two of the three lakes have swimming beaches, boat docks, and boat-launching sites. The refuge has nine hiking trails—don’t miss the Rocky Bluff Trail with its steep bluffs, waterfalls, and numerous wildflowers. The refuge also has three campgrounds with 400 campsites.
In the southern sector of the refuge, a 4,050-acre wilderness area has been established. Dramatic sandstone outcroppings and woodland creeks make this an exhilarating place for hiking, but fires and camping are not permitted.
Open daily year-round.
(618) 997-3344, Ext. 334