Visit Us

Experience winter's magic at Chautauqua refuge.

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. A visit to the refuge offers a variety of recreational activities, from birding and wildlife watching to hunting and fishing. The refuge and its inhabitants are always changing.

Trails and viewing platforms along the wooded bluff line provide excellent birding and wildlife watching opportunities throughout the year. Peer over the edge during spring and fall waterfowl migration and you will likely see more than 100,000 ducks dabbling and diving in the seasonal wetlands. In late summer and fall, the view will be very different. Mudflats below your feet will be busy with 30 or more species of shore birds and 10 species of gulls and tern. You are likely to spot a resident eagle any time of year, but in winter migrating eagles stopover at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. You may be able to see hundreds from the viewing platforms.

Driving Directions

Most navigation system direct to the Eagle Bluff Access area at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge off North Buzzville Road. Refuge headquarters is located off North Country Road 1950 E. 
GPS Coordinates: Latitude/Longitude 40.364459 -89.998263

From Havana: Follow Promenade Street north. Travel Manito Road/CR20 north for nine miles. Follow Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge sign onto North Country Road 1950 E. Follow the next refuge sign onto 2110 N to arrive at refuge headquarters. Continue straight to reach Eagle Bluff and Goofy Ridge access points.

From Pekin: Follow Route 9 south through Pekin. Turn west on Manito Road/CR20. Travel Manito Road approximately 20 miles. Follow Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge signs onto North Country Road 1950 E. Follow the next refuge sign onto 2110 N to arrive at refuge headquarters. Continue straight to reach Eagle Bluff and Goofy Ridge access points.

Cameron-Billsbach Unit is located 3 miles south of Henry, Illinois.

Fees

There is no charge to visit.

Restrooms

Restrooms are available at the Chautuaqua Nature Trail trailhead near the refuge headquarters and at the Eagle Bluff access point.

Points of Interest

Let our staff and volunteers inside the refuge headquarters help you plan your visit! This is a great starting point for visitors to become more familiar with the refuge and the wildlife that live here. While there, enjoy the half mile ADA accessible nature trail featuring viewing platforms with resting benches and scopes. 

What To Do

If you have 15 minutes

  • Check out the informational kiosk and viewing platform at the Eagle Bluff access point

If you have one hour

  • Enjoy a few of our trails. There is a half mile ADA accessible nature trail located at the refuge headquarters or check out the five miles of primitive trails along the bluff line starting at Eagle Bluff.

If you have half a day or more

  • Bring a fishing pole or kayak to experience an Illinois River backwater lake or checkout other local points of interest just up the road from the refuge, like the Jake Wolf Memorials Fish Hatchery - they offer tours 365 days a year! Sand Ridge State Forest is also near by. The State Forest has several opportunities for outdoor exploration, including an archery range, camping, cross country skiing, dog training, equestrian trails, geocaching, hiking trails, hunting, mountain bike trails, picnicking, and snowmobile trails. Check their website for details and regulations. 

Know Before You Go

When planning a trip to the refuge, it is important to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for boating or hiking excursions and to dress for the weather. Poison Ivy is common throughout forested areas. Consider bringing water, food, binoculars, field guides, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and anything else that might make the outdoor experience more enjoyable.

Visitor Tips

Sunrise and sunset offer picturesque views of the refuge landscape and are also a great time to look for active wildlife. There are informational kiosks with maps and regulation brochures at the refuge headquarters and Eagle Bluff Access Area. A member of our staff is generally available at the refuge headquarters Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., excluding federal holidays.

Activities

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge provides multiple opportunities for visitors to experience nature through wildlife-dependent activities involving fishing, hunting, wildlife observation, wildlife interpretation, wildlife photography and environmental education.

Trails

Dreamy sunset view from the Chautauqua refuge Nature Trail Overlook.

Chautauqua Nature Trail

Open Season: Open year round
Length: 0.5 miles
Location of trail: Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters
Surface: Gravel and raised wooden boardwalk
Difficulty: Easy
Information: ADA accessible loop trail begins and ends at the refuge headquarters. Offers great wildlife view opportunities with three platforms overlooking the South Pool. Showcases a realistic eagle nest at ground level. 

Eagle Bluff Observation Deck

Open Season: Open year round
Length: 0.04 miles
Location of trail: Eagle Bluff
Surface: Gravel and raised wooden boardwalk
Difficulty: Easy
Information: ADA accessible out-and-back trail begins on top of the bluff in Eagle Bluff parking area near the restrooms. This short access trail leads to picnic tables and large platform with viewing scope overlooking the South Pool.  

North Pool Trail

Open Season: Open year round
Length: 2.75 miles
Location of trail: Eagle Bluff to Goofy Ridge
Surface: Natural
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Information: Out-and-back primitive trail with its southern point starting at the Eagle Bluff area and north post access point at the Goofy Ridge Parking area. The trail winds up the eastern bluff of the North Pool and along remnants of old fishing cabins that once dotted the bluff. The North Pool trail is also accessible from these parking areas. Some of the northern portion of the trail follows the existing fire line at the refuge boundary for easy viewing of the canopy. The trail ends at its northern most point at the Goofy Ridge parking area.

Rountree Trail

Open Season: Open year round
Length: 0.6 miles
Location of trail: Southern Trailhead at the Rountree parking lot off Buzzville Road/1950E, 0.8 miles north of Eagle Bluff. The trail can also be accessed from the North Rountree parking lot off Buzzville Road/1950E.
Surface: Gravel and raised wooden boardwalk
Difficulty: Easy
Information: This gravel trail takes you through Rountree Natural Area, an example of a typical Black Oak-Mockernut Hickory forest type. Good opportunities for mushroom and berry picking. The trail contains and inner loop and an outer loop.

Beach Access Trail

Open Season: Open year round
Length: 
Location of trail: North Rountree parking lot off Buzzville Road/1950E.
Surface: Natural and wood framed stairs
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Information: Out-and-back primitive trail leads to a set of stairs down to the water’s edge. A reduced understory makes this hike perfect for viewing migratory songbirds from a quiet sitting spot on a piece of driftwood. This access point connects to the North Pool Trail.

Other Facilities in the Complex

Illinois River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge Complex manages the Cameron-Billsbach Division, a division of Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, and is located in Marshall County, between Sparland and Henry, Illinois. The Cameron-Billsbach Division is divided into two units on either side of the Illinois River. The 992-acre Cameron Unit is located on the west side of the Illinois River and is composed of bottomland forest, old fields and backwater habitat located at Weis and Meridian lakes. The 831-acre Billsbach Unit is located on the east side of the Illinois River and joins the center portion of Billsbach Lake.

Rules and Policies

All refuge land and water is open to public access in accordance with refuge regulations from sunrise to sunset for approved public use activities from February 1 to October 15. On October 16 of each year, portions of the refuge close for waterfowl sanctuary and remained closed until January 31. Trail access and wildlife viewing platforms along the east side of the refuge remain open during the sanctuary period. Pets must be on a leash unless engaged in hunting.

Locations

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge
C/O Illinois River National Wildlife And Fish Refuges 19031 East County Road 2110N Havana, IL 62644-6372
Hours
Headquarters Hours
Monday - Friday, except federal holidays
7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Note:
The office may be closed due to weather if local school are closed.
Refuge Lands Hours
February 1 - October 15
Sunrise - Sunset
October 16 - January 31 Waterfowl Sanctuary
Sunrise - Sunset
Note Waterfowl Sanctuary:
Portions of the refuge are closed for waterfowl sanctuary; however, all trails along the east bluff remain open throughout the year and bank fishing is permitted on the east shore line. See regulations for more details.
Hunting access
Permitted from one hour before legal shooting time, until half an hour after sunset.