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Illinois Beach

Nature Preserve Area




Location And Access

From Zion, take Sheridan Road south about 1 mile to Wadsworth Road, then go east to Illinois Beach State Park. The nature preserve is south of the park lodge. Special Note: The preserve is located within the south unit of Illinois Beach State Park. A nature center, trail system and trail guide have been established. Access to the nature preserve south of Dead River is by permit only. Permits may be obtained from the site superintendent.


Illinois Beach, dedicated in 1964, was the first Illinois Nature Preserve. In 1980, the area was also designated as a National Natural Landmark. Illinois Beach is one of the richest, biologically most diverse areas in the state. The preserve lies within the Lake Michigan Dune Section of the Northeastern Morainal Natural Division. The interesting dune and swale topography resulted from the lowering of the water levels of ancient Lake Chicago following the last glacial period. The natural communities adapted to this unique lakefront environment include lakeshore, foredune, sand prairie, sand savanna, fen, panne, sedge meadow, marsh and pond. These natural communities support over 500 plant species and a large variety of animal species. Low sand dunes near the beach contain sandbinding grasses, bearberry and trailing juniper. The dry ridges found farther inland support sand cherry, willows, New Jersey tea, shrubby cinquefoil and large colonies of prickly pear cactus. Sand prairies are common on stabilized dunes and ridges. The typical grasses are little bluestem, switch grass, Indian grass and sand reed grass. Alkaline pannes are located in some of the swales near the lake. The common plants include sedges, Ohio goldenrod, fringed gentian, Kalm's lobelia and shrubby cinquefoil. The preserve supports many species of ducks, shorebirds, gulls, herons, rails and songbirds. The preserve is in an excellent area to see hawks, falcons and shorebirds during migration.


Illinois Department of Natural Resources


October 16, 1964 as the 1st Illinois Nature Preserve


1266 acres

Topographic Quad


Topo Map


For Further Information

Illinois Nature Preserves Commission

One Natural Resources Way

Springfield, IL 62702


or Site Superintendent, Illinois Beach State Park, Zion, IL 60099 (708/662-4811)