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Wildlife & Habitat

Birds Flying in Marsh

Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge is divided into eight management units that differ in soils, hydrology, topography, land use and vegetative cover. These individual units are described briefly; acreages include land within the CCNWR purchase boundary some of which is currently within private ownership.


Cypress Creek Unit

This unit forms the northernmost boundary of the Cypress Creek NWR and includes some of the higher elevations (500 feet msl) on the Refuge as well as approximately 1100 acres of low, poorly drained bottomland.

The area is drained by Cypress Creek which flows into the Cache River south of the Perks Road. The acquisition boundary of this unit covers 6,000 acres, and Cypress Creek has purchased 3,400 acres to date.

Of the purchased acreage 1,611 acres have been restored to forest and wetland. Restored areas include Cypress Pond and Hickory Bottoms.

  • Cypress Pond

Cypress Pond, located off of Cypress Road, features a short forested trail that leads to the Cypress pond fishing platform.

Platform may be used to fish or observe wildlife such as turkey, deer and a wide variety of birds.

Hickory Bottoms

Hickory bottoms, located off Mount Olive Road, offers a 200 acer tract of contiguous forest and a 1.5 acre trail.

This area has gained national recognition for its songbird population, and is a popular hunting and wildlife observation spot.

Limekiln Slough Unit

This unit includes approximately 6,600 acres. The area includes 4,500 acres of agriculture and is bounded on the east, south, and west by low hills.

The area is drained by Limekiln Slough which empties into the Cache River. The central portion of the unit historically was a large floodplain forest dominated by oaks and hickories until it was cleared in the 1970’s.

To date the Refuge owns 1,500 acres of which 850 acres have been restored to forest and wetlands.

Limekiln Slough Unit contains the scenic Limekiln Trail which includes 2 boardwalks that wind through the swamp. Included in the Limekiln Slough Unit is East Access to Limekiln Trail and the Brushy Unit.

Limekiln Springs Trail-East Access

Access to the east side of Limekiln Springs Trail is located off of Long Reach Road, the trail ends on the west end at Cache Chapel Road. The trail does not loop.

The trail is rated at moderate difficulty and includes limestone outcrops, floodplain forest, multiple springs and 2 boardwalks.

This location provides quality habitat to a plethora of plant and animal species.

  • Brushy Access

This 320-acre wetland highlights waterfowl, shorebirds, and a diversity of wetland species.

Opportunities exist for wildlife observation and hunting during the year.

Access into the area is off mallard Lane, east of Century High School.

Cache River Unit

This unit’s acquisition boundary covers 5,276 acres, 1,136 of these acres have been purchase by Cypress Creek Refuge. Of the purchased land 750 has been restored to forest and wetland habitat.

Within the Cache River Unit is Buttonland Swamp which is owned jointly by Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Refuge. In addition, Cypress Creek’s acquisition territory forms a buffer around this section of river which widens with the gradual fall of 6-12 inches per mile.

Historically, this section of the river featured wide expanse of open water with depths of more than 10 feet. Within the last century land clearing and channelizations to increase drainage has resulted in excessive silt and sediment deposition eliminating this deep water. In 2002, approximately 1 mile of river within this unit was dredged to remove sediment and initiate deep-water habitat restoration.

Today this portion of the river contains areas dominated by old-growth bald cypress and water tupelo trees, as well as button bush, making it a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking and nature photography.

This unit contains Lower Cache Access, Buttonland Swamp Access and Eagle Pond, as well as Limekiln Trail West Access.

  • Buttonland Swamp/Eagle Pond

Canoe trails wind and loop through this area, granting boaters access to views of ancient bald cypress, such as the 109 knee cypress tree in Eagle Pond, and in the main channel of the Cache River.

Eagle Pond is an area of open water within Buttonland Swamp. Rimmed with stands of tupelo trees, eagle pond is a great spot for birders, boaters, and nature photographers.

  • Limekiln Springs Trail West Access

West access to the Limekiln Springs Trail is located off of Cache Chapel Road (for east access see above).

This 2.5 mile the trail ends on the east end at Long Reach Road. The trail is rated at moderate difficulty and does not loop.

Some of the trail features include limestone outcrops, floodplain forest, multiple springs and 2 boardwalks.

Springs in this location maintain water in the swamp, which provides habitat to a multitude of fish, amphibians and reptiles, along with birds and other species.

Butter Ridge Unit

This area contains 5,936 acres of which 60% are in agricultural production. Currently CCNWR owns 2,281 which include the 1,000 acre Frank Bellrose Waterfowl Reserve. This 1000 acre area is closed to the public and includes 400 acres of moist soil wetlands, which are intensively managed as a sanctuary for migrating birds.

Both Big Creek and Little Creek enter the Cache through the Butter Ridge Unit. Big Creek has a relatively steep hydrologic gradient and drains a basin that covers 52 square miles. The channelized lower reach of this tributary bisects the Bellrose Reserve and enters the Cache River.

  • Bellrose Overlook

The viewing platform is located off of Cache Chapel Road and provides an area to observe wildlife year-round. Wildlife in this area includes such species as deer, beaver, mink, kingfisher and other birds.

Indian Camp Creek Unit

This unit is low, flat and primarily river floodplain, it includes approximately 3,000 acres with 1,208 acres in agriculture (primarily private land).

Extensive channelization between the towns of Ullin and Tamm’s cut-off many of the historic river meanders from the main river channel. To date the Refuge owns approximately 1,000 acres which includes floodplain forest and wetlands.

Sandy Creek and Lake Creek Units

These units include 7,432 acres and form a relatively narrow corridor along the Cache River from the town of Tamms to the Mississippi Diversion.

Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge owns approximately 5,700 acres with 300 acres in agriculture. The remaining acreage has been restored to floodplain forest and wetlands.

Cache River Bend Access provides the only access to the main channel of the Cache river for boats (10mph limit).

  • Cache Bend Access

Boat access is located on Morris Road, east of Sandusky, IL. Low water levels in summer may make boat access difficult.

Old Cache Channel Unit

This unit has an acquisition boundary of 2,537 acres, with 1,038 in Refuge ownership. The majority of this unit contains low, poorly drained bottomlands. The Old Cache River Channel forms the south boundary of this unit.

In 1950 a ditch was cut on the west end of the channel diverting water from Cache River directly into the Mississippi thus abandoning approximately 6 miles of river channel that empties into the Ohio River. Prior to Refuge ownership, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has maintained a floodgate into the Ohio River (on the east end of the old channel).

The USACE with the cooperation of the Cairo Drainage District, are currently responsible for manipulating water levels in the channel to maintain drainage and flood control. When the gates are open and the Ohio River is down, water levels may drop to 2 inches or less.

This unit contains the Old Cache Channel Access and Cache Levee Access

  • Old Cache Channel Access

Located off of Route 51 and Redmond Road, this is a popular place for fishing and wildlife observation. This location provides boat access to 3 miles of river channel. Bald cypress, river birch and other floodplain species border the river.

  • Cache Levee Access

Cache Levee Access is located off of Route 3, south of Rout 127 and also provides access to the Old Cache Channel. A silt bar to the east helps to maintain water levels.

This location is generally used for canoeing, fishing, hunting and wildlife observation.

For more information on the management units, please contact Cypress Creek Refuge at 618-634-2231. For an overview of features and access points visit our maps page.


Page Photo Credits — Prothonotary Warbler by Stoil Ivanov, Indiana Bat by Justin Boyles, Birds Flying in Marsh by Jan Sunberg, Bird-voiced Tree Frog by Erik Williams
Last Updated: Feb 11, 2015
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