Big River State Forest
1, Box 118
Keithsburg, IL 61442
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.
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.
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 the forest in 1873 for the
first time anywhere.
Some of the 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.
A prominent landmark in the forest is its fire
tower, located at the headquarters area where 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 trails
that the firebreaks provide.
Picnicking - There are several picnic areas along
Campbell Slough and Putney�s Landing, with shelter
houses, tables, camp stoves and drinking water
Camping - Tent and trailer sites are available at
the Riverview camping area and in the northwest
corner of the forest. 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.
Boating and Fishing - Three boat launching ramps
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.
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 features white-tailed deer and numerous small
game animals, including quail, squirrels and
rabbits. To supplement existing food and improve
habitat for upland game, food plots have been
planted. During the waterfowl hunting season, the
Mississippi River is popular for its wood ducks,
blue- and green-winged teal, mallards and Canada
Snowmobiling - Big River State Forest has 30
miles of marked trails and a warming station.
Scenic Drives - Winding through the forest are 15
miles of scenic roadways.
For visitors coming from the south, east and
west, BIG RIVER can be reached from Highway 164. The
forest is well signed on Highway 164. Go north on
the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop road for 9 miles.
The office is located on the right.
For visitors coming from the north, take Highway 17
to Keithsburg. The forest is well signed on Highway
17. Turn left at Main Street and go to the next
4-way stop. Turn right (going south) and go 4 miles
on the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop. The office is
located on the left side of the road.
For visitors coming from the south, west, and
east, DELABAR PARK can be reached from Highway 164.
The park is well signed on Highway 164. Go north 2
miles on the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop road. The
park entrance is located on the left.
If coming from the north, take Highway 17 south to
Keithsburg. Turn left at Main Street going east to
the first 4-way stop. Turn right (going south) and
go 10 miles. The park entrance is located on the
For visitors coming from the south, east, and the
west, HENDERSON COUNTY CONSERVATION AREA can be
reached from Highway 34. The site is well signed on
Highway 34. Turn 1 mile west of junction 164 and
34(north) on a gravel road and go 1 mile. The
entrance is on the left side.
For visitors coming from the north, take Highway 164
south to Gladstone. Continue south on 164 to
junction 164 and 34. Turn right and go west 1 mile.
Then turn right (north) on gravel road and go 1 mile
and the park entrance is on the left.
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