A 26-square mile tract
situated in the gently rolling countryside of west-central Illinois, Jim
Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area is one of the
Department's largest public access areas.
A mosaic of mature
forest land, agricultural land and grassland, Jim Edgar Panther Creek
State Fish & Wildlife Area is dissected by Panther and Cox creeks
and their tributaries. In addition to 6,000 acres of timberland and 4,200
acres of prime farmland, JEPC contains a rare hill prairie. It also
is home to a rich assortment of wildlife, from endangered species that
includes Indiana bat, northern harrier and red-shouldered hawk, to
game species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant and
Settled and farmed
by the mid-1800s, the contiguous farmsteads that composed Jim Edgar Panther
Creek were purchased from 1968-1974 by Commonwealth Edison for development
of a coal-fired, electric-power generating plant and a 5,000-acre cooling
lake. The company named the 16,550-acre
tract "Site M" for nearby Menard County where coal to fuel the
power plant was to be mined.
leased about half of the acreage for cropland, and through a cooperative
agreement with the Department of Natural Resources, also provided limited
upland and forest game hunting. Through the years, hunters applying for
permits to the area became well-acquainted with the Site M name.
abandoned its plans to build a power plant at Site M in the 1980s, citing
decreased electrical demands, and offered the land for sale. By virtue
of its size and location, Site M became an unparalleled opportunity for
the Department of Natural Resources to address critical conservation needs
and meet outdoor recreation demands. With funds specifically designated
for conservation purposes, the state of Illinois added the acreage to
the public trust in June 1993, making Site M the largest tract ever acquired
by the Department.
1, 2001, Panther Creek
Conservation Area was absorbed into JEPC in an effort
to avoid confusion and simplify site regulations. This brings the
total acres of JEPC to 16,550. Panther Creek CA is now known
as the West Open Unit.
primarily to steep terrain, cover 6,000 acres of JEPC. Common hardwood
species include American elm, black walnut, black cherry and several types
of oaks, including white, black and bur. Because the timberland was affected
by extensive logging and grazing through the years, the Department is
managing this area to enhance its forest wildlife habitat.
of wetlands at JEPC are associated with upland depressions, farm ponds
and drainage ways. Common plants in these areas include long-leaved and
horned pondweed, duckweed, rice cutgrass, reed canary grass and bulrush,
as well as black willow. A severely degraded segment of Cox and Panther
creeks, near their confluence in the northwestern portion of the site,
has undergone stream bank stabilization and is part of a model watershed
project to improve the Illinois River system.
on a lease basis is an integral management component for conservation
and fiscal purposes, about 4,200 acre of JEPC are leased as cropland to
farmers using conservation-oriented agricultural practices.
Two man-made wetlands
were constructed in 1999 as part of the road construction project. Since
1993, when the state began to manage the area, 1,200 acres of native grass,
820 acres of cool season grass, 180 acres of habitat strips, and 105 acres
of trees have been planted in land that once wasagriculture fields or
pasture. An additional 670 acres have been idled and allowed to move towards
forest through natural succession.
JEPC features hunting for
white-tailed deer, wild turkey and mourning dove, as well as upland species
(pheasant, quail, woodcock, snipe and rabbit), furbearers (raccoon, opossum,
red fox, gray fox, striped skunk and coyote) and squirrels. Season dates
and hours, permit requirements and other regulations are published in
the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, available through the Department of Natural Resources.
One notable aspect of
JEPCs hunting opportunities is its participation in the Department
of Natural Resources Quality Deer Management Program. At JEPC and other
IDNR sites designated as a Quality Deer Management Area, only antlerless
deer or deer with a minimum of four points on one side may be taken during
the archery and firearm deer seasons. The program protects 1- and 2-year-old
bucks to provide future opportunities for harvesting trophy-size deer,
while managing local herds through the taking of does and other antlerless
Six sunflower areas
are situated throughout JEPC to accommodate dove hunting. Wheat
fields in these areas are burned to attract doves. Dove hunting for
the first 10 days is by special drawing. The first five days the drawing
is by permit from Springfield. Unfilled hunter quotas are filled by site
drawing days 1-5 and the entire hunting quota on days 6-10. The site drawing
occurs at 11 A.M. daily.
The hunter check station,
located in a former farmhouse on County Highway 11, handles all
hunting administrative functions. All hunters must register at the site
office once a year and receive a free vehicle pass which allows
access to the site for the entire season.
A lottery drawing
is held at the JEPC site office to distribute non-resident archery
deer permits for one-week seasons starting the last week of October through the third week of November. Applications must be received by March 31. The specific season dates are listed on the application.
Fact Sheet | Non-Resident Archery
| Boating | Canoeing
Sport fishing opportunities
are available at JEPC at Gridley Lake( 25 acres opened 1998) Prairie
Lake (210 acres, opened 2002) and Drake Lake (35 acres opened in 2003).
Several ponds within the site also have been renovated.
Stream fishes include
largemouth bass, bluegill and green sunfish, along with shiners, chubs
and minnows. In addition to the stated fish species, Prairie Lake
is stocked with muskie.
motor and canoe access are allowed at Gridley and Drake Lakes. Prairie
Lake has unlimited horsepower with a no-wake zone for the entire lake.
Sail boats are allowed.
Picnic areas and restrooms
are located at Gridley Lake, Drake Lake, Painter Pond, Geiss Pond, and
the Prairie Lake day use area. Shelters are reservable for a fee
of $25 or, if not reserved, they can be used on a first-come first-serve
Tweny four miles of mountain
bike trail are available consisting of two loops and a connecting trail. The Prairie
Lake loop is 17 miles, the Drake Lake loop is 5 miles, and 2 miles of
trail connect the two loops. Trails are open noon to dusk April 16 - May 15 and
sunrise until sunset May 16 - October 3. November 1 - April 15
trail are closed to mountain bikes but are available for hikers.
The rolling scenic trail travereses forests and grasslanda and has many overlooks along the lake.
A 22-car/trailer parking
lot, along with a 26-mile trail, are located in the northwest corner of
JEPC on Questing Hills Road just off County Highway
2. A second
access to the equestrian trail is found at Q-4 parking lot situated
between the 9-mile north loop trail and the southern 11 and 6-mile loops.
The trail is open noon until dusk April 16 - May 15, and open sunrise to sunset May 16 - October
31. November 1 through November
15 horse trails are closed on Tuesdays and Saturdays but otherwise from dawn to dusk. Trails are closed November 16 - April 15 each
year. Call the park office before arrival to check for weather related closures.
hiking is available from parking areas positioned off public roads
throughout the site. Because unmarked, open wells may exist in the area,
caution must be used by individuals visiting JEPC.
A 3- mile hiking
and jogging trail opened fall of 1999 around the lake shore at Gridley
Lake. Seventeen miles of new hiking and mountain bike trail opened April
16, 2001 around Prairie Lake. Seven more miles of mountain bike/hiking
were opened in 2003 around Drake Lake and connecting to the Prairie Lake
trail. There are 26 miles of Equestrian Trails in three loops. The trails have a lot of elevation changes.
An outstanding example
of the original loess hill prairies of central Illinois is JEPC's Cox
Creek Hill Prairie Natural Area. The 175-acre site encompasses remnants
of scattered hill prairies composed of loess (windblown silt), which occur
within forest openings on steep terrain where soils are droughty and well-drained.
Among the plant species found on loess hill prairies are little bluestem,
side-oats grama, fringed puccoon, wild petunia and prairie dock.
Several rare Illinois
plant species grow here. The small white lady's-slipper orchid has state-endangered
status, while four other plants are listed as state-threatened species:
savanna blazing star, pale false foxglove, large-seeded mercury
and Hill's thistle.
Surveys have identified
87 species of breeding birds here as well. Among the notable residents
are eastern bluebird, orchard oriole and lark sparrow, plus 11 warbler
species, five types of woodpecker and three species of owl. Loggerhead
shrikes, a threatened species in Illinois, have been observed at the site,
as have endangered northern harriers and red-shouldered hawks.
Camping | Campground Map
There are a variety of camping opportunities at JEPC. Prairie Lake Campground has 84 sites, 19 are full hookup sites
with sewer drops and water at the sites. The other sites all have electricity.
There are also nine rent
a cabins located in the campground. The cabins are located on the shore of Prairie
Lake. The cabins have two rooms with the back room
containing two bunk beds. The front room has a double bed, drop down table
and a couple chairs. All beds are equipped with mattresses but you must
bring your own bedding. No cooking or smoking inside the cabins. A concrete patio outside each cabin has a grill and table. All cabins
have electricity, ceiling fans, and a 1000 watt heater.
We also have an equestrian campground, Questing Hills, has 51 electric
A Class AA campground has 18 sites that have sewer drops
and water hookups at the sites and an additional 64 class A sites. A new shower
building is available.
A primitive camping
area at Jim Edgar Panther Creek has seven three-sided shelters
to camp near or in for a fee of $6 per night. Hikers
and mountain bike riders must travel approximately a quarter mile from
the nearest parking lot to access the shelters.
Reservations for campsites, cabins, and picnic shelters may be made at www.reserveamerica.com
Use | Archery Range
The park has shelters in the following day use areas: Prairie Lake
(has a fireplace), Gridley Lake, Geiss Pond,
Painter Pond, and Drake Lake.
These areas are reservable through ReserveAmerica for a $25 non-refundable
The Chuck Farmer Memorial
Archery Range is conveniently located along Prairie Lake, with the shotgun
range just down the road. Both ranges are open from dawn to dusk year
round, except for during firearm deer season. The shotgun range is closed
during IDNR Wingshooting Clinics, and is only for shotguns and targets.
No slugs allowed, only shot shells.
Located in Cass County
25 miles northwest of Springfield off State Illinois Route 125, 10 miles
northeast of Virginia, 10 miles west of Petersburg and New Salem State
Historic Site, and 10 miles northwest of Ashland.
Access JEPC from Interstate
72 by taking the Ashland/Jim Edgar Panther Creek exit at State Route 123
and traveling north through Ashland to State Route 125 then west to Newmansville
Travelers on Interstate
55 have easy access to JEPC by taking the Sherman exit to Veterans Parkway
then west on 97 to the intersection with 125. Continue west on 125 through
Pleasant Plains and past Ashland. Just west of Ashland turn north on Newmansville
Road and follow the signs.
Visitors approaching the site
from the north west and especially equestrian campers who will be using
the equestrian campground located on the north west corner of the site
should use HWY 78 south to just north of Chandlerville. Turn at the brown
and white JEPC sign to the east and follow the signs to the destination
of your choice.
- 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
- 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 Economic Opportunity,
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.