The Union County State
Fish & Wildlife Area was acquired by the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources in the late 1940s and developed a wintering goose population
in excess of 50,000 birds by 1964. Since then, controlled harvest through
the quota system and continued provision of quality winter sanctuary and
food have contributed to a total southern Illinois winter population of
nearly 500,000 Canada geese. The Union County segment of this population
varies from 50,000 to 100,000 each winter.
Union County State
Fish & Wildlife Area encompasses 6,202 acres in the Lower Mississippi
River bottomlands division of Illinois. Numerous shallow sloughs and other
water areas totaling approximately 1,100 acres are scattered throughout
the area. More prominent water areas include Grassy Lake (350 acres)
and Lyerla Lake (275 acres).
Of the 5,350-acre
land area, approximately 2,400 acres are cultivated. The remaining acreage
is timber, brush or permanent grass cover. By far the most intensive activity
on the area is farming. Each year a variety of hard grain and green forage
crops are planted and left standing to provide food for wintering geese.
More than 2,400 acres of corn, sunflower, wheat, clover and other crops
are established for this purpose.
Union County State
Fish & Wildlife Area is a haven for many diverse forms of wildlife.
The most prominent throughout five months of the year are the phenomenal
flocks of wintering Canada geese and other waterfowl. White-tailed
deer, bald and golden eagles, and many other interesting types of wildlife
are commonly observed by visitors to the area.
Public use of interior
gravel roads is restricted except when permission is granted for special
circumstances, such as student research and site tours.
Public use in the
refuge is limited to sightseeing and wildlife photography. No hunting
is allowed. In order to avoid disturbance of waterfowl on the area, no
day use or overnight facilities have been developed.
Throughout the fall
and winter months, thousands of Canada geese are concentrated along the
Refuge Drive. Few places in Illinois exist where so many wild geese can
be closely observed and photographed in their natural habitat.
Fishing is permitted
in Grassy Lake from March 1 to October 15. Outboard motor size is limited
to 10 horsepower or less. Grassy Lake is a shallow, fertile bottomland
lake with catfish the primary sport fish attraction.
Excellent early spring
and late summer bluegill and crappie fishing exists in Lyerla Lake. Fishing
is permitted from March 1 to October 15, with outboard motor size limited
to 10 horsepower or less.
acres at the south end of the main site are designated as a Public Hunting
Area. Goose and duck hunting is on a permit basis with duck permits (allowing
either species to be hunted) issued from the Springfield office
upon application by interested hunters. Daily fee is $10 with blinds,
some rental decoys and transportation to the field provided on the area.
A total of 35 blinds can accommodate 70 hunters each day, and one more
blind is accessible to a disabled hunter and assistant. A 5 a.m. drawing
is held each morning at the Hunter Check Station to allocate blinds to
On the smaller Firing
Line Unit area, 4 four-man blinds and a separate walk-in area can accommodate
a total of 32 additional hunters a day. A draw for this area is held one
hour before shooting time daily at the green barn across from the Office/Visitor
On the main site,
additional hunting opportunities exist for deer, squirrel, ducks and doves
both on the Public Hunting Area and in the Firing Line Unit area. Additional huntable acreage exists
on two satellite locations: 2,741 acres
on Devil's Island Wildllife Management Area and 1,375 on Cape Bend State
Fish & Wildlife Area. For more specific regulations, please see the
hunter fact sheet for each specific area, or call the office Monday through
Friday, 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Union County Hunter Fact Sheet | Devil's
Island Hunter Fact Sheet | Cape
Bend Hunter Fact Sheet
The Office/Visitor Center
is located 7 miles west of the town square in Jonesboro, Il on State Hwy
146 and then, (after turning left or south on Refuge Road), 2 miles in
on Refuge Rd. The Public Hunting Area entrance is located just east of
the intersection of Route 3 and Reynoldsville Road, across the railroad
tracks and left on the first gravel 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
- 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.