Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area, located along nearly 10 miles of scenic Illinois River backwaters, bottomlands and bluffs, lies in the heart of the mallard duck flyway and supports a wide variety of animals, plants and outdoor pursuits.
With an initial land purchase in 1925, the area has grown to include approximately 6,000 acres, of which half is land and half is water divided into three units.
The largest of these is the Marshall Unit, consisting of 3,000 acres east of the Illinois River and adjacent to Route 26. The area headquarters is found here, along with a small campground, boat ramp, fishing channel, hunter check station and hiking trails. Terrain varies from ravine-cut bluffs to bottomland lakes, islands and sloughs.
The Spring Beach Unit contains 1,642 acres (537 acres of water) on the west side of the Illinois River between Sparland and Chillicothe. The unit falls in both Marshall and Peoria counties. There is a 6-acre picnic area, fishing, and access to hunting and hiking trails adjacent to Route 29. The habitat ranges from upland forest to riverbottom to cropland.
The Sparland Unit, the smallest of the three, consists of 1,280 acres, of which 1,110 acres are water. Lying between Route 29 and the Illinois River, Sparland is predominantly used as a waterfowl hunting area, although at times fishing is quite popular. The backwater is very shallow and boat access is difficult during low water.
A day-use area with tables, shelters and stoves (no drinking water) is located in the Spring Beach Unit, two miles south of Sparland on Route 29. A smaller picnic area is found along Route 26, 5 miles south of Lacon, near the campground.
Tent and trailer spaces with electricity and water are available. Canoe camping is permitted on the islands except during waterfowl hunting season. Camping permits must be obtained.
The site provides a free launching ramp. There is no horsepower limit.
All fishing is done on the Illinois River and its backwaters. Bluegill, crappie, bullhead and channel catfish are the most frequently caught fish. More experienced anglers can catch largemouth bass. A manmade half-mile-long channel near the campground is popular for fishing.
Upland and forest game hunting opportunities exist in designated wildlife management areas. Shotgun and bow and arrow hunting are permitted. There is no hunting in recreation areas. Waterfowl hunting is available by permit and is restricted to designated blind sites.
A marked, 3.5-mile combination hiking, cross-country ski and hunter access trail is available for public use. Please contact the site for a trail brochure.
Cross-country skiing, backpacking and ice fishing are permitted on the frozen backwaters after the conclusion of waterfowl hunting season. The 3.5-mile trail takes skiers through wooded bluffs.
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