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Illinois State Parks

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USA Parks
Western Region
Big River State Forest
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Picnic Table ©
It is always a great day for a picnic in the park.
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RR 1, Box 118
Keithsburg, Illinois   61442

Phone: 309-374-2496
Reservations: 309-374-2496
Email: park email button icon
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.
Nature of the Area
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.
History of the Area
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.
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.
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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 geese.

Big River State Forest is located near Burlington, Monmouth

There are several picnic areas along Campbell Slough and Putney?s Landing, with shelter houses, tables, camp stoves and drinking water available.
1. Big River Trail: This is a 7-mile trail that offers hikers an opportunity to explore the diverse flora and fauna of the forest, including oak trees, wildflowers, deer and birds.

2. Oak Ridge Loop: A moderate difficulty level hike spanning about 3 miles through dense woods with beautiful views of rolling hillsides covered in mature oaks.

3. Pine Creek Pathway: An easy-to-navigate pathway stretching for approximately two miles along scenic Pine Creek which provides excellent opportunities for bird watching or spotting other wildlife such as squirrels and rabbits.

4. Wildcat Hollow Hiking Trail: Approximately five mile long looped trail offering stunning vistas over valleys filled with hardwood forests; it's also known for its springtime display of blooming dogwoods.

5. g Bald Eagle Bluff Overlook Track: It's a challenging uphill climb but rewards you at the end with panoramic views from atop this bluff overlooking Mississippi river valley.

6. Wildflower Walks: These are short trails scattered throughout Big River State Forest where visitors can enjoy seasonal displays of native Illinois wildflowers like trilliums, violets etc.

7. Sand Prairie Nature Preserve Trails: Located within state forest boundaries these trails take you across unique sand prairie ecosystem home to rare plant species adapted to sandy soil conditions.

8. Big Timber Backpacking Route: For more adventurous souls there exists multi:day backpacking route covering most remote parts of park providing solitude amidst nature.

9. Cross Country Ski Routes: During winter months certain hiking routes double up as cross country ski paths allowing one another way too appreciate snow clad beauty.

10. Horse Riding Paths: Apart from regular walking tracks several horse riding specific pathways exist crisscrossing various sections making sure equestrians aren't left behind either.

11. Accessible Paved Tracks: There are few paved walkways designed keeping accessibility needs in mind so everyone irrespective their mobility levels could enjoy natural splendors of Big River State Forest.

12. Riverfront Trail: This trail runs parallel to Mississippi river providing hikers with serene views over water and chance sighting migratory birds during certain times year.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
October 4 Our number one place to ride horses by Lee and Cheryl Nelson
park review stars; one to five We thoroughly enjoy this park. We ride horses at a lot of places and this is always the one that we come to the most. The trails are always well maintained and everyone is very helpful and friendly. Thank you for making our trailriding so pleasant.
September 20 our favorite place to ride by penjac
park review stars; one to five we love the horse trails with first discovering this park 30 years ago. the scent of the pines while riding or camping is just wonderful. our granddaughter now rides with me so 3 generations of our family have enjoyed the trails. we hope/pray this park and the trails will never be closed.
September 10 Great biking area - with no people!!!!!! by Lon
park review stars; one to five Excellent day use area for hiking, picnics and biking.
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Area Accommodations (over 20 miles away)
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You will feel right at home when you reach Carroll County, our corner of beautiful Northwest Illinois. The magnificent Mississippi River and outdoor spaces will refresh your spirit and touch our soul.
87.2 miles from park*

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 right.

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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Illinois State Parks