Ray Norbut Fish and Wildlife Area is a 1,140-acre
mosaic of bottomlands, woodlands, wetlands, open fields, steep hills,
rocky ravines, hollows, brushy draws and bluffs. Located along the Illinois
River, it lies five miles east of Griggsville and two miles south of Valley
City in Pike County. Big Blue Island, a narrow, 100-acre strip of land
in the river, is part of the conservation area. Other notable geographic
features are two west-east flowing streams-Blue Creek, a river tributary,
and the spring-fed Napoleon Hollow Creek.
site provides exceptional habitat for a wide range of harvestable, non-harvestable,
uncommon, threatened or endangered plants and animals. Examples are the
endangered bald eagle, a winter resident of the wooded blufflands, and
the jeweled shooting star, a rare pre-glacial relict wildflower species.
To provide a refuge for the eagles, portions of the bluff areas are closed
to the public seasonally.
Oak and hickory are the dominant tree species
in a woodland that also contains red cedar, red and white oak, sugar maple,
ironwood, blue beech and, in the bottomlands, abundant willow, cottonwood
and silver maple. The oak/hickory community is the highest quality forest
in the region and supports a diverse assemblage of wildlife.
Forests, bluffs and limestone outcroppings
are rich in wildflowers and ferns. Among the wildflowers are hepatica,
Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauties, toothwort, yellow bellwort, trout
lily, trillium, wild ginger, larkspur, phlox, wild petunia, Venus looking
glass and May apple. The ferns include cliffbrake, Christmas and woolly
Although intended primarily for public
hunting, the conservation area also beckons hikers and nature enthusiasts
with several undeveloped trails, one of which has a trailhead parking
lot. Fishing is permitted, too, in the Illinois River and Blue Creek.
No facilities or programs exist for camping,
picnicking, horseback riding, water sports, winter activities or other
evidence found at Ray Norbut Fish and Wildlife Area indicates a densely
populated settlement existed there during the Middle Woodland Era, about
2,000 years ago. It’s not certain what the community’s purposes were and
whether it was permanent or occupied only intermittently. However, discovery
of more than a dozen burial mound groups and other cultural remains within
the site suggest it was a mortuary camp and headquarters for other, non-mortuary
rituals and ceremonies. Scientific investigations dating back to the 1800's
have documented occupancy of the tract by cultures as old as 8,000 years
and as recent as 200 years ago.
Initial Conservation Department land acquisitions
at the site, in 1970, totaled 860 acres. Another 280 acres were added
in 1988 to bring the area to its present size. Designated from the outset
for public hunting, the facility was called Pike County Conservation Area.
The name was retained until 1995, when it was changed to honor Raymond
J. Norbut, an employee of the Department of Conservation for more than
36 years and superintendent of state parks for a decade.
According to historical account, Pike County’s
first Caucasian resident settled along the river in Flint Township within
what is now the Ray Norbut Fish and Wildlife Area. Later, the historic
settlement of Big Blue Hollow-the county’s second-ranked center of commerce
in 1842-was established on Blue Creek in Detroit Township, at the southern
end of the conservation area. Big Blue Hollow boasted three flour mills,
a sawmill, a store, stone quarry and several residences.
Elsewhere on the conservation area are
a limestone kiln used to make masonry mortar in the mid- to late 1800's,
several 19th-century homesteads, a family cemetery, a homestead having
both historic and prehistoric significance, a number of burial mounds
and other archaeological sites. Research on these structures and sites
All but 140 of the conservation area’s 1,140 acres are open to hunting.
Timber occupies approximately 900 acres and open fields-some cultivated
as wildlife food plots-comprise the remainder of the vegetative cover.
Sunflower fields supply food for doves in the late summer and fall, while
small grain plots help sustain a wide range of birds and other creatures
during the winter. Hunting is allowed for dove, squirrel, deer, turkey,
rabbit, quail, raccoon and waterfowl. Statewide seasons, shooting hours
and bag limits apply. All hunters should check-in at site headquarters
to be informed of site specific regulations. Hunter
Bank fishing is allowed in the Illinois
River and Blue Creek, where bass, bluegill, catfish and crappie may be
caught along with other species found in the river. Pull-off parking facilities
for bank anglers are available in several locations, but there are no
accommodations for launching or retrieving watercraft.
Hikers will find an undeveloped trail ranging
from a quarter of a mile to almost a mile in each of the property’s three
designated geographic zones-south, central and north. In addition, a gravel-surfaced
township road also serves as a trail as it angles through and around the
conservation area, forming the boundary line for one segment before coming
to a dead-end at Blue Creek. No signs, toilets or other amenities are
After the fall/winter hunting seasons conclude,
most of the conservation area south of I-72 is closed for the benefit
of bald eagles wintering on the river bluffs. Bald eagle viewing is allowed,
but watchers are not allowed south of the highway bridges.
- 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.