Located along the Kaskaskia and West Okaw rivers near Sullivan, the Shelbyville State Fish and Wildlife Area offers some of the best hunting, river fishing, and nature study opportunities in Illinois. The area contains more than 6,000 acres of mixed habitats including forests, prairies, restored grasslands, old fields, brush, wetlands, rivers, streams and cropland in the upper reaches of the 34,000-acre Lake Shelbyville project area.
Lake Shelbyville is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility, built as part of a general comprehensive plan for the development of the Kaskaskia Basin for flood control, recreation, water supply, and fish and wildlife conservation. The 11,000-acre lake and its surrounding uplands form a scenic background for a variety of outdoor recreational activities.
Shelbyville SFWA is composed of two separate units. The Kaskaskia Unit (eastern) covers 3,700-acres and the West Okaw Unit (western) is about 2,500 acres. These are managed primarily to promote diverse habitats to accommodate a wide variety of wildlife species, and support related recreational opportunities. Because of its focus on hunting and fishing, the area has no camping, picnicking or day-use facilities.
Hunters and anglers will find six small boat launching facilities conveniently located in the wildlife areas, while those with larger watercraft are advised to use the larger access areas offered at marinas, state parks or Corps of Engineers sites.
Oak, hickory and sugar maple flourish in the uplands, while cottonwood, sycamore, silver maple and willow dominate the lowlands. This variety of species creates spectacular scenery as the foliage changes from green to the vivid reds, oranges, purples and yellows of a showy Illinois fall.
Prairie plants can be found along railroad paths, rural roads and in abandoned fields. Of special note is the unique, 3.5-acre hill prairie. This relic prairie jewel has been managed to replicate its natural state. Located near the extreme southeast corner of the Kaskaskia Unit, the area is known to harbor more than 50 species of native plants. Its summer bloom of purple and yellow coneflowers is, by itself, worthy of a visit to the site. An additional wealth of native wildflowers can be found in woodland understories, along ditch banks and in old field settings throughout the area.
More than 200 species of birds have been documented on the site since listing began in 1975. Seasonal displays featuring shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, wood warblers, raptors and grassland and shrub habitat songbirds are a birdwatcher's delight. Resident game birds and game mammals are plentiful, offering the hunter opportunities not readily available in the intensely farmed areas dominating off-site landscapes. Bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasant, mourning dove, woodcock, cottontail rabbit, white-tailed deer, fox and gray squirrel, raccoon, muskrat, opossum and mink are found in good numbers.
Portions of the area are managed under a farm lease program to promote upland wildlife habitat and to demonstrate the potential for producing wildlife on farm lands. Site personnel supplement natural habitats with tree and shrub plantings, native grass seedings, specialty food crop production and succession control.
Wetland and marshland habitat management are emphasized in and around the five waterfowl management areas. By controlling the depth and duration of water on an area, significant amounts of natural moist-soil plants are produced. These, in turn, are used to provide breeding, courtship, feeding and staging areas for wetland wildlife species including rails, snipe, herons, shorebirds, cormorants, ducks and geese.
Hunters and fishermen will find six small boat launching facilities conveniently located in the wildlife areas. Visitors with bigger craft are advised to use the larger access areas offered at marinas, state parks or Corps of Engineers sites.
The Kaskaskia and West Okaw rivers provide excellent stream fishing for walleye, white bass, crappie and channel catfish. Boats are welcome on the rivers, but the corridors are designated no-wake areas.
Largemouth bass, bluegill, redear and channel catfish are found in the six ponds scattered around the management units. Ponds range in size from 0.5 to 1.7 acres in size.
Hunters are welcome throughout the area, except where hunting is prohibited within 100 yards of residences and in other areas, as posted. The site offers ample opportunities for rabbit, pheasant and quail in upland settings. Fox and gray squirrels are plentiful in the timbered areas. Deer are common and can be taken with shotgun, bow or muzzleloading rifle. Dove are seasonally abundant, especially in sunflower fields. Woodcock and common snipe are present in huntable numbers during migrations.
Waterfowl management and hunting are featured programs on both management units. Five subimpoundments provide excellent mid-migration habitat and quality walk-in or boat waterfowl hunting opportunities. During the first few days of the season duck and goose hunting sites are allocated by daily drawings.
Trapping is allowed only by special permit and in designated furbearer management units. A drawing for permits is held annually of October. Trappers must report their take to the area headquarters at the end of the season.
Trails and Nature Study
The Kaskaskia and West Okaw units offer developed nature trails that highlight habitats. Trails provide visitors an opportunity to leisurely wander through natural settings that present different plant and animal communities at every turn. Whether a spring walk to look at wildflowers or marvel at woodland warblers, or a fall hike to take in fall leaf color, these trails showcase some of central Illinois' finest outdoor spectaculars.
- 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 conflicts.
- 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.