Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge
Chautauqua NWR is the headquarters of the Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuges Complex. It was established by Executive Order, which authorized the purchase of lands owned by defunct Chautauqua Drainage and Levee District. It extends from Illinois River mile 124.0 to 129.5. Under pristine conditions, this segment of the Illinois River floodplain was composed of a series of backwater lakes. In the early 1900's, like many floodplain wetlands, the area was diked, drained, and converted for agricultural production. During the 1930's, a series of navigation locks and dams were built on the Illinois River for barge traffic. Commercial navigation and the diversion of Lake Michigan water down the Illinois River exacerbated the impacts of agricultural uses by raising the low mean water levels by about four feet. The Refuge is an important link in the chain of resting, feeding and wintering areas for waterfowl and other migratory birds in the Mississippi Flyway.
Chautauqua Refuge is host to large concentrations of migrating birds, and has been designated an "Important Bird Area" by the American Bird Conservancy and a "Regionally Significant Site" by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Shorebird populations can reach peaks of 50,000 in August, while waterfowl use can exceed 400,000 birds in mid-November.
Hunting of waterfowl is allowed on 1,000 acres of Chautauqua Refuge, consistent with State of Illinois regulations. Fishing opportunities are available on the Refuge with sport fish such as catfish, white bass, and crappie being the most-often pursued species.
The 1/2-mile-long Chautauqua Nature Trail winds through the upland forest and wetlands edge of the Wasenza Pool. Eight interpretive overlooks covering topics such as prairie remnants, waterfowl observation, and local history are located on the trail.
The main habitats found on Chautauqua Refuge are two backwater lakes of the Illinois River, the 2,000-acre Wasenza Pool and the 1,100-acre Kikunessa Pool. The Wasenza Pool is a shallow water/seasonal wetland managed to provide critical habitat for resident, migratory, and breeding birds. The Kikunessa Pool is managed to provide a stable water level suitable for fish, resident wildlife, and migratory bird species.
Chautauqua Refuge has two forests identified on the list of Illinois Natural Areas. The 35-acre Roundtree Area is an upland forest dominated by oak/hickory, while the 40-acre Melz Slough Area is a prime example of bottomland forest complete with pin oak, pecan, silver maple, and cottonwood.
Two small demonstration prairies are located on the Refuge, with the remaining Refuge habitats comprised of upland hardwood forests dominated by an oak/hickory association.
Directions and Additional Information
Chautauqua Refuge is located 8 miles north of Havana, Illinois, or 30 miles south of Pekin, Illinois, on the Manito Blacktop.
If you need additional information, please contact the field station directly.
c/o Illinois River Nat'l Wildlife & Fish Refuges
19031 E County Road 2105N
Havana, IL 62644
Phone (309) 535-2290
Fax (309) 535-3023
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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