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. 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.
Picnicking - There are several picnic areas along Campbell Slough and Putney’s Landing, with shelter houses, tables, camp stoves and drinking water available.
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. Reservations accepted.
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 geese. Hunter Fact Sheet
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.
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