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  Mississippi River - State Fish & Wildlife Area   

West-Central Region

17836 State Highway 100 N.
Grafton, IL 62037

Mallard Drake
Site Map Federal Involvement Local Services
Bald Eagle Ferry Information Management Areas
Birding History Piasa Bird
Boating Hunting Picnicking
Camping Hunting Maps Surrounding Area
Imagine an area that includes 15 wildlife management areas and 13 public access areas spanning more than 24,000 acres and scattered along 75 miles of two major rivers. Add to this awe-inspiring bluffs that tower over the river valley, providing breathtaking views, and you begin to get some idea of what awaits you at the Mississippi River State Fish and Wildlife Area.

As its name implies, the area lies within Mississippi River Valley, at Navigation Pools 25 and 26, and includes portions of both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The total project area consists of 24,386 acres of General Plan lands. Of this total, 16,875 acres are actively managed for wetland habitat enhancement and public recreation.

The Mississippi River Area's main emphasis is wetland management, with waterfowl as the primary species of concern. Hunters, fishermen, boaters and birdwatchers can enjoy the beauty of the area, yet there is ample opportunity for access to civilization just a few miles away.

A drive along the scenic Great River Road leads through Grafton, past Elsah, a quaint 19th century village, and on to Alton, with many antique stores and other accommodations. A ride on the Brussels Ferry takes you across the Illinois River and into Calhoun County where apple orchards and roadside markets await. There truly is something for every type of visitor to the area.


The Mississippi River Area has a rich history. Evidence of millions of years of geological change can be seen throughout, including 4,000 - 5,000 feet of sedimentary rock. The bluffs between Alton and Grafton are only a tiny fraction of the thousands of feet of rock extending below the surface.

The Ice Age saw the advancement and regression of four glaciers. The last glacier, the Wisconsin, did not enter the area, but the melting ice widened the river valleys and contributed silt, sand and gravels to the two river systems. The melding of two such major river systems strongly influenced both ancient and modern man.

Archeologists have identified four cultural periods within the Upper Mississippi River Valley. They are: Paleo (prior to 5000 B.C.); Eastern Archaic (5000 to 1000 B.C.); Woodland (2000 B.C. to 1400 A.D.), and the Mississippian (800 to 1700 A.D.). The Mississippian was strongly influenced by the Woodland Culture as evidenced by large populated sites, intensive agriculture and religious cults.

Europeans began exploring the area in the mid-18th century. By 1824, the importance of the Mississippi River as a trade and transportation route had been established, and Congress appropriated $75,000 to remove dead trees (snags) from the river.

Congress appropriated funds in 1907 to create a 6-foot navigation channel, but existing technology was not adequate. The 1927 River and Harbors Act authorized study of the Mississippi between Minneapolis and the Missouri River. The outcome of this study was a 1930 authorization to build 24 low-head dams with locks between Minneapolis and Alton.

In 1944, Congress approved the Flood Control Act, which authorized the development of recreational facilities on public access areas. The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1946 provided for establishment of a General Plan and Cooperative Agreement to use the navigation channel project lands and waters for fish and wildlife conservation and management.

The majority of MRA lands and waters are referred to as General Plan lands, under management by the state of Illinois in accordance with a 1961 General Plan and 1963 cooperative agreement with the Department of the Interior. These lands are managed as fish and wildlife areas, while day use and access are under a separate lease agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Federal Involvement

In 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, better known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, imposed an 11 percent manufacturer's tax on sporting arms and ammunition, which is used to fund wildlife restoration and management activities. The Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Act, known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, was passed in 1950 and created a 10 percent manufacturer's tax on fishing tackle, which is used to fund fish restoration and management efforts. The MRA has participated in these federal programs since 1958.

Hunting  | Waterfowl Hunter Fact Sheet | Mississippi River Pools 21, 22, & 24 Hunter Fact Sheet |

Most areas within the Mississippi River Area are specifically managed for waterfowl, with 348 blind sites allocated by public drawing for three-year periods. Waterfowl check stations are operated on the five more intensively-used areas.

Forest game hunting is popular in most areas. Upland game is available, but seldom productive, due to annual flooding.

Hunting Maps: Mississippi River Area | Batchtown | Calhoun Point | Diamond Island | Fuller Lake | Glades | Helmbold | Hurricane Crader Island Michael | Illinois River | Illinois River Mortland Island |Michael to Kampsville | Mississippi River | Mississippi River Clarksville | Mortland Island |  Piasa Island | Red's Landing | Red's Landing Boundaries | Red's Landing Walk-in | Riprap Landing | Rip Rap Landing Walk-in | Stump Lake


Anglers are welcome, but certain areas are restricted during waterfowl season. These areas are clearly posted each year.


Boating along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers provides many opportunities for relaxing, sunning, enjoying the scenic shoreline and bluffs, watching birds and viewing the majesty of these great river systems. Small boats and canoe operators might better appreciate the shelter and quiet beauty that can be found in the backwater lakes.

Nearly 40 miles of the mighty Mississippi River are available via the Piasa Creek Access Area and Royal Landing. The Glades, Godar Diamond, Hadley Landing and Michael Landing provide access along 35 miles of the Illinois River. All of these areas are contained in Navigation Pool 26.

Access to 33 miles of Navigation Pool 25 are above Winfield Dam (Lock and Dam 25), Cockrell Hollow, Red's Landing and Riprap Landing. Other Major Boat Access Ramps


Picnickers will appreciate the pristine beauty of the area at picnic areas scattered throughout the area..


Camping is strictly prohibited in the entire MRA, but is available at Pere Marquette State Park, just north of Grafton on the Great River Road.

  • While groups of 25 or more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
  • At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
  • Pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
  • Actions by nature can result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park office before you make your trip.
  • We hope you enjoy your stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
  • For more information on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs' Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
  • Telecommunication Device for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175 for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.

Parks & Recreation

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Springfield, IL 62702
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