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Visitor Activities

Waterfowl Hunting

Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge is centrally located along the Mississippi Flyway, a major route for migratory birds, affording visitors an excellent opportunity to see wildlife. Please note that the Batchtown, Portage Island, Gilbert Lake, and most of the Calhoun Division are closed from Oct. 16-Dec. 31 to provide inviolate sanctuary for migratory birds. The visitor center remains open during this time.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife Observation

    Nearly 300 species of birds visit the Refuge throughout the year. October, November, March and April are the best months to see large concentrations of waterfowl; shorebird and warbler migrations usually peak around the first weeks of May and August; and bald eagles are common in the winter as they gather near the river to feed in open water areas. Deer, squirrel, raccoon, muskrat, turkey, beaver, river otter, skunk and opossum are year-round residents.

    See thousands of waterfowl feeding in shallow wetlands of the Calhoun Division and on Swan Lake. Bald eagles use this area regularly during winter. Other birds enjoy the grassland habitat near the refuge visitor center. View an abundance of wildlife from the observation deck near the visitor center.

    Gilbert Lake is a great place to seek solace and escape the demands of everyday life; bird watching and hiking are allowed and encouraged on the three mile gravel trail in the division. Travel the National Scenic Byway (Illinois State Highway 100) to Gilbert Lake, which is adjacent to Pere Marquette State Park in Jersey County, Illinois.

    Keep in mind, the Gilbert Lake Division, Batchtown Division, Portage Island Division and portions of the Calhoun Division are closed from Oct. 16-Dec. 31.

  • Wildlife Photography

    Photography at Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge

    Spend the day photographing wildlife for a peaceful way to explore the refuge. Stop at the visitor center photo blind to capture photos of waterfowl resting and refueling in the spring and fall.

    Photographers, an annual wildlife photography exhibit is held at the refuge each October and a bald eagle exhibit in February. Submit your favorite wildlife or landscape photo from the year to share with refuge visitors. Call the refuge to learn more.

    Here are 12 tips for great wildlife photography for beginners.

  • Environmental Education and Interpretation

    Environmental Education at Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge

    Our trained environmental educators provide nature discovery lessons for families and school groups. A number of public programs are scheduled through out the year. Check the events calendar to find one for your family. 

    School groups can visit the refuge for a nature discovery lesson that meets state standards. Visit the For Educators page for more information about our lessons.

    While visiting, learn about the natural and cultural history of the Two Rivers area at a number of interpretive kiosks located throughout the Refuge.

    Call the refuge office at 618-883-2524 to schedule a field trip or to have a ranger visit your school or organization.

  • Hunting

    Hunting at Apple Creek Division

    The refuge allows hunting for migratory birds, upland game, and big game in the Apple Creek, Calhoun and Clarksville Island Divisions. Check the Rules and Regulations page to view specific regulations for each division and download the printable brochure.

    Refuge hunting is in accordance with Illinois state hunting seasons and regulations

  • Paddling

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    Explore the refuge by canoe or kayak. Great places to launch are the Prairie Pond and Gilbert Lake access areas of the Batchtown Division. Although shallow Swan Lake can provide an easy paddle too, launch from the Blooms Landing access north of Brussels.

  • Fishing

    Boy with fish

    From boat or bank try your luck at sport fishing on the rivers and backwaters. The Swan Lake levee near the Brussels Ferry is a popular fishing area where you have access to fish the lake and the Illinois River. Swan Lake is a shallow marsh like lake that was once a bottomland forest and is best accessed by canoe or kayak. 

    The Batchtown division is a popular place to fish for crappie and catfish. Launch your boat and wet your line at Prairie Pond and Gilead boat ramps in the spring and summer.

    Bank fishing is available in the Gilbert Lake Division, providing access to both Gilbert Lake and the Illinois River. 

    Water levels in each of the above fishing areas fluctuate depending on floods and refuge management practices. In a non-flood summer the lakes are often very low to produce habitat for migrating waterfowl. Call the Refuge visitor center for water level details, 618-883-2524.

    Fishing is allowed during daylight hours only.

    Go to the Rules and Regulations page to view our full public use regulations and download the printable brochure. And be sure to check Illinois state seasons and regulations before heading out.

Page Photo Credits — Credit: USFWS
Last Updated: Nov 25, 2016
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