Peoria CVB

Southern Loop

Named for the capitol of the Isle of Cuba, Havana (population 3,600) is the county seat of Mason County. Located on the banks of the Illinois River, Havana is primarily a rural, agricultural community. In fact, sixty-Havana Duck Statuefive percent of
the United States' pumpkins are grown in the region making Havana a hot spot for tourists in the fall. Visitors to New Salem State Park can see where Abraham Lincoln lived for several years. More nature-oriented tourists can take the Spoon River Drive in fall for a display of colors unlike anything in the west or go hiking at Riverfront Park or explore the 4,500 acres of nearby Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. For more information, contact the Havana Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 116, Havana, IL 62644, (309) 543-3528, Fax: (309) 543-6633./ 

This loop focuses in and around the town of Havana, Illinois, which is situated on the east bank of the Illinois River south of Peoria. In 1908, with its harvest of 24 million pounds, the Illinois River was the most productive inland commercial fishery in the U.S. That year, the harvest accounted for approximately 10% of the total U.S., more than the entire Mississippi River. About half of that passed through the fish markets at Havana and Liverpool. In addition, recreational fishing contributed equally to local economies. With its bricked and cobblestoned streets, beautiful river park, and friendly eateries, Havana offers a wonderful respite to visitors. "Birds-as-art" aficionados will want to stop at the Havana Public Library (the oldest continuously used Carnegie library in Illinois) to view Herman August Glick's collection of hand-carved waterfowl and shorebird figures.


Southern Loop Map 

(For a detailed overview of the S. Loop nature sites - click on the numbers on the right side of the map)

Southern Loop Map

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Park Symbol Guide

Park Icon Guide






Inside the Southern Loop

1. Havana Riverfront Park
information iconparking iconrestroom iconhiking iconboat acc iconcanoe iconDriving areaviewing area iconpicnic area iconHavana Riverfr Park


Bordered by the east bank of the Illinois River this linear park possesses an ample walking trail shaded by the park's large riparian trees. On the park's bluff (at the terminus of Main Street) is an observation deck and raised boardwalk nestled in a grove of American elm, red maple, mulberry, northern catalpa, and black locust trees.

Havana's Riverfront Park represents a relaxing, refreshing stop for wildlife watchers. The deck and raised walkway are perfect spots for perusing the river for Ring-billed Gulls, swallows, waterfowl, and other birds. During the summer months, keep an eye out for Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks as well. The large trees that populate much of the park are almost always full of Red-headed and Downy woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Blue Jays, and American Robins.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.30024; w 90.06539
Site Contact: 309-543-6240/ website

From US 136/Dearborn Ave. at the Illinois River in Havana, turn north on Schrader Street and go approximately 5 blocks to Main Street. Turn west on Main Street (towards the river) to the entrance to Riverfront Park within 1 block.

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2. Chautauqua National Wildlife RefugeChautauqua
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Owned and operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, this 4,480-acre site contains elements of several habitats:
1) oak-hickory forest, 2) riparian forest, 3) floodplain shrub, 4) marsh, and 5) open lake. Note the nice prairie plant display garden at the refuge headquarters.

Although known primarily for its waterfowl, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge also attracts numerous other bird groups into its forests, marshes, and lakes. Bald Eagles regularly utilize the wetland areas, especially during migration periods. One pair has been nesting in the Melz Slough area at the North Pool since 1994. Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, American Bittern, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night-Heron are common wading bird species here. Woodland songbirds are also in good supply throughout the year in the refuge's forested habitats.

For dedicated birders, perhaps the most compelling avian event at Chautauqua is summer and early fall shorebird migration. Substantial portions of the refuge's South Pool are specifically managed to attract and hold migrating plovers, sandpipers, godwits, and other shorebirds during their biannual migration trek through the region.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.36270; w 89.98904
Site Contact: 309-535-2290/ website

From Havana, go east on US 136/Dearborn Ave. approximately 0.3 miles to CR (County Road) 20/Promenade Street. Turn left (north) on CR 20/Promenade St. Continue north out of town, where the road name changes to Manito Road. Continue east and north another 9.0 miles to CR 1950E. Turn left (north) onto CR 1950E and go 1 mile to the refuge sign on the left (west) side of the road. Turn left (west) at the sign and go 0.4 miles to the refuge headquarters on the left.

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3. Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery
information iconparking iconrestroom iconhandicap iconvisitors center iconJake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery


Named after Jacob John Wolf, 7-term Illinois General Assembly member and past Deputy Director of the Department of Conservation, this unique facility is comprised of a 36,000-square-foot hatchery building, 56 indoor rearing tanks, 41 outdoor raceways, 12 rearing ponds, and a 22-acre solar-heating pond. The hatchery's Visitor's Center contains several observational overlooks, an antique fishing tackle exhibit featuring over 200 artifacts, a "Harvesting the River" exhibit depicting the natural history of fish and fishing on the Illinois River, and several live and static fish displays. Guided tours are available at the Visitor's Center.

Located atop a natural aquifer the hatchery can simultaneously accommodate 16 different species of fish and produce some 42 million fish annually for stocking in public and private waters. While at the hatchery, check the surrounding upland hardwood forest for numerous songbirds and check the rearing ponds for gulls, swallows, and Belted Kingfishers. During the growing season, the roadsides along the hatchery's long entry are filled with wildflowers such as poppy mallow, golden aster, milkweed, blazing star, and cow pen daisy as well as the colorful butterflies that tend them.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.43024; w 89.89191
Site Contact: 309-968-7531/ website 

From Havana, go east on US 136/Dearborn Ave. approximately 0.3 miles to CR (County Road) 20/Promenade Street. Turn left (north) and go north out of town (the road name changes to Manito Road/CR 1800N). Continue east and north, following Manito Rd./CR 1900E/CR 2000N for 18.75 miles to Manito. Turn west (left) onto CR 2500N. Go 5.0 miles and turn north (right) at the Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery sign. Follow the entrance road for 1.0 mile to the site.

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4. Sand Ridge State Forest
information iconparking iconrestroom iconhiking iconcamping iconDriving areapicnic area iconvisitors center iconbiking icondrinking fount iconsand ridge forest

Fifteen centuries ago, melt-waters from the last Ice Age deposited vast amounts of sand along the Illinois River valley, which have since been sculpted into massive dunes. The 7,500-acre Sand Ridge State Forest dunes were vegetated into dry-mesic oak-hickory forest, pocked with sand prairie habitats. Here Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Junco, and American Goldfinch abound. Common nesting species include Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Whip-poor-will, Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.39050; w 89.87088
Site Contact: 309-597-2212/ website

From Havana, go east on US 136/Dearborn Ave. approximately 0.3 miles to CR (County Road) 20/Promenade Street. Turn left and continue north; the road name changes to Manito Road/CR 1800N. Continue east and north 14.75 miles to CR 2240N in Forest City. Turn northwest (left) and go 2.5 miles. Turn north (right) onto CR 2600E, go 0.75 miles, then west (left) onto CR 2300N. Veer left briefly onto the access road to the headquarters.

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5. Mason State Tree NurseryMason State Tree Nursery
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Owned and operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, this 240-acre site is dedicated to raising native tree, shrub, grass, and wildflower stock to be used in both public and private habitat restoration projects.

The majority of annual nursery stock distribution here goes to private Illinois landowners who possess management plans approved by their district forester, wildlife biologist, or natural heritage biologist. Unlike a typical nursery, Mason State Tree Nursery is arranged more like an arboretum or botanic garden (minus signage). Tree, shrub, grass, and wildflower species groups are planted into microcosms of their wild habitats. Butterflies such as Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Gray Hairstreak, and Plains Checkerspot abound here, especially around the prairie plantings, as well as host plant trees such as pawpaw, sassafras, and black cherry. Look also for birds like Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird, and Tree Swallow.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.31699; w 89.90460
Site Contact: 309-535-2185

From Havana, go east on US 136/Dearborn Ave./Laurel St. 10.25 miles to North CR (County Road) 2400E. Turn left (north) and go 1.8 miles. Look for the Mason State Tree Nursery sign, parking area, and administration building on the right side of the road.

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6. The Llama Farm
information iconparking iconThe Llama Farm

The Llama Farm maintains a breeding herd of carefully selected llamas which have resulted in many Grand Champion males and females. Owners Frank and Judy Hofreiter maintain the highest degree of quality possible in their breeding, medical care and herd management programs.

Close relatives to the camels, llamas are smaller, and possess silkier coats. Unlike camels, which are native to the Old World, llamas are New World animals, distributed throughout the highlands of South America. They have been domesticated for many centuries, serving as pack animals as well as sources for superior wool-like fiber used for clothing. Llama wool is available for sale.

Site Access: Free (reservation required) 
GPS: n 40.22255; w 90.04739
Site Contact: 309-543-3497/


From the intersection of US 136/E. Laurel Ave. and CR (County Road) 20/S. Promenade St. in Havana, go south on US 136/S. Promenade St. for 0.1 miles. Turn west (right) onto US 136/E Dearborn St. for 0.4 miles to the intersection of US 136/W. Dearborn and SR (State Route) 78. Turn south (left) onto SR 78 for 6.0 miles. Turn east (left) onto CR 1100N for 4.2 miles. Turn north (left) onto CR 1650E and go 0.4 miles to the farm on the right.

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7. Sanganois State Wildlife Area
canoe iconboat acc iconDriving areafishing area iconSanganois St

Originally known as the Sanganois Gun Club, this 2,700-acre tract was purchased by the state in 1948. Additional purchases over the years brought the site's total acreage up to 10,360, including portions of numerous floodplain lakes. The site is still operated as a (now) public hunting area, predominately for waterfowl, but also for upland game hunting as well as fishing and boating.

Located just northeast of the confluence of the Illinois and Sangamon Rivers, the Sanganois Wildlife Area's ecology is a product of both of these streams. Comprised primarily of open (lake) water, sloughs, and bottomland forest, the site also contains pockets of both upland tallgrass, prairie and sand prairie. The little bluestem-dominated prairie located just northwest of the site office is loaded with Northern Bobwhite, Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, and Mourning Dove. Butterflies such as Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Plains Checkerspot abound throughout the prairies as well. Look also for Painted Turtles, Map Turtles, and Red-eared Sliders basking on logs within the many timbered ponds and sloughs along the levee road that follow west and south through the site before rejoining the main road northwest of the office. Be careful when driving along the levee road, though, as the roadways are unimproved and may pose problems during or just after rainy weather.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.09179; w 90.29187
Site Contact: 309-546-2628/ website 


From the intersection of US 136/E. Laurel Ave. and CR (County Road) 20/S. Promenade St. in Havana, go south on US 136/S. Promenade St. for 0.1 miles. Turn west (right) onto US 136/E Dearborn St. for 0.4 miles to the intersection of US 136/W. Dearborn and SR (State Route) 78. Turn south (left) onto SR 78 for 15.8 miles to the juncture of SR 78 and CR 150N. Turn west (right) onto CR 150N/CR 200N and go 9.0 miles to Sanganois State Fish & Wildlife Area office.

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8. Anderson Lake State Conservation Area
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Anderson Lake

Once a private duck-hunting club, the 2,247-acre Anderson Lake and adjacent 230-acre Carlson Lake were purchased by the state in 1947 and put under the auspices of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. These lakes are floodplain lakes, receiving overflow from the nearby Illinois River during flood periods. The complex is known for its waterfowl population, primarily Mallard and Wood Duck, which are especially numerous during the fall months. During winter, substantial numbers of Bald Eagles utilize the site; and large numbers of American White Pelicans can be seen here each spring during the annual northward trek to their summer breeding grounds.

The bottomland forest associated with Anderson Lake is mature, holding large specimens of silver maple, cottonwood, and black willow. Massive planted shade tree specimens such as tulip poplar, black walnut, red maple, and American sycamore are located throughout the camping areas. These giants attract songbirds such as American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, and Chipping Sparrow. In addition to waterfowl, the lake itself hosts raptors such as Osprey and Red-tailed Hawk, as well as a large colony of Purple Martins (summer).

Site Access: Fee 
GPS: n 40.19656; w 90.20330
Site Contact: 309-759-4484/ website

From the intersection of US 136/E. Laurel Ave. and CR (County Road) 20/S. Promenade St. in Havana, go south on US 136/S. Promenade St. for 0.2 miles. Turn west (right) onto US 136/E Dearborn St. for 4.6 miles to SR 100. Turn south (left) onto SR (State Route) 100 and go approximately 8.8 miles to the site.

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9. Emiquon National Wildlife RefugeEmiquon Refuge
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This recent (1993) addition to the Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuges Complex is still in the developmental stage. The best opportunity to explore Emiquon NWR exists at the Frank Bellrose Trail, which moves through the maple-elm riparian forest of the lower Spoon River. In this lush stretch of Spoon River, the Wood Duck is king, careening through the timber and constantly uttering its hoarse "Weet! Weet! Weet!" call. The many natural tree cavities along the trail are used by Prothonotary Warblers and Red-headed Woodpeckers, as well as mammals such as Raccoon, Squirrel, and Opossum.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.30547; w 90.08533
Site Contact: 309-535-2290/ website 

From US 136/Dearborn Ave. at the Illinois River in Havana, go west on US 136 for 1.0 mile. Turn right (north) onto SR (State Route) 78/SR 97 and go approximately 0.6 miles to the Emiquon NWR parking area on the right.

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10. The Nature Conservancy Emiquon PreserveNature Conserv Emiquon
Driving area

Outside of the Florida Everglades, the nearly 7,000-acre TNC Emiquon Preserve represents one of the largest riparian floodplain restoration projects in the country. Before it was drained and put into agricultural production in 1921, the Emiquon area's Thompson Lake was the largest bottomland lake in the entire Illinois River Valley. Now, after more than 80 years of cultivation, Thompson Lake, its nearby sibling Flag Lake, and their associated prairies and hardwood forests are being restored.

Documented descriptions of the Thompson/Flag Lake area stretch as far back as 1687 when elements of LaSalle's expedition visited the site. Dr. Charles Kofoid not only described the area but studied it in great detail during the late 1800s, before it was converted to agricultural use. Now, scientists have detailed pre-conversion information from which to draw upon as they set about restoring the site to its original ecology.

Site Access: Please call ahead for access 
GPS: n 40.35838; w 090.08587
Site Contact: 309-547-2730/ website 

From US 136/Dearborn Ave. at the Illinois River bridge in Havana, go west on US 136 for 1 mile to SR 78/SR 97. Turn right (north) onto SR 78/SR 97 and go approximately 5.4 miles to The Nature Conservancy's Emiquon Preserve.

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11. Dickson Mounds Museum
information iconparking iconrestroom iconhandicap iconhiking iconpicnic area iconvisitors center iconDickson Mounds S Loop

Owned and operated by the Illinois State Museum, the Dickson Mounds Museum and its accompanying 70 acres of upland forest and prairie is a designated National Historic Site, and one of the finest on-site archeological museums in the country. The museum exhibits and interprets the 12,000-year history of human habitation associated with Fulton County's Emiquon area. The River Valley Gallery exhibits detailed interactions between humans and the natural world. Its "People of the Valley" exhibit portrays the sequence of human cultures, beginning with the Ice-Age hunters who inhabited the area. Additional educational resources include a discovery center, library, and preserved Mississippian village site.

The restored prairie adjacent to Eveland Village is bursting with wildflowers, birds, and butterflies. The mature upland hardwood forest areas are filled with oaks, maples, ashes, and elms, and studded with spring blooming redbuds and hawthorns. Eastern Chipmunks occupy these forested habitats year round.

Site Access: Free 
GPS: n 40.35149; w 090.11556
Site Contact: 309-547-3721/ website

From US 136/Dearborn Ave. at the Illinois River bridge in Havana, go west on US 136 for 1.0 mile. Turn right (north) onto SR (State Route) 78/SR 97 and go approximately 3.75 miles. Turn left (west) onto CR (County Road) 1050N/Dickson Mounds Rd. and go approximately 2.5 miles to the museum.

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