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Emiquon

Today we had to drive a ways to handle an errand, and decided to detour a little and see how Emiquon is coming along.

Emiquon is a gigantic new nature reserve occupying the floodplains along the Illinois river. It's still under heavy development, reclaiming the habitat. It used to be the biggest farm in the world, corn as far as you could see, surreal in how flat the land was, and how uniformly the stalks grew. I remember visiting the area as a child, and in the fall dozens of immense harvesters ran back and forth all day and all night.

I hadn't heard about Emiquon before I saw it. On another drive through the area, a few years ago, the huge farm was mysteriously unplanted. We asked what was going on at a nearby museum and heard about the nature reserve, but back then it was just tens of thousands of acres of... weeds. Not very impressive.

Today, though, the levees have been dismantled somewhat, and the land is being carefully reclaimed. It's mostly underwater so the only way to see it all is by boat. It's so big that several highways run right through it, so our views were from the car. There's a hiking trail, but we didn't have time enough to detour that far -- will try to visit again soon, and I'll take some pictures.

Already, though, the wildlife diversity was amazing. Several waterfowl I've never seen before, huge flocks of swifts and dragonflies (good mosquitos out there, I guess.) Favorite amusing moment was the "Rare fish breeding habitat -- no fishing" sign. Apparently the egrets can't read. ;)

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
asakiyume
Aug. 26th, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
I love the photo of all the birds like specks on the sky, at the Emiquon site you link to.

I wonder what the name means. Do you think it's a Native American word?
amberdine
Aug. 26th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
The sky full of bird specks is a very common sight around here in the spring and fall. Emiquon is just one of many wetland preserves near by, so we get huge migrating flocks. It's even better live, with all the honking. Or under a full moon!

I do believe Emiquon means something in some Native American language, but I can't find the information any more, now that the website has actual accomplishments to talk about. The whole sanctuary surrounds a set famous burial mounds built by the (long extinct) Mississipian culture.

The burial mounds are the very roundabout reason why I have a house out here in the boonies, actually. (Won't make you ask: my uncle designs museum exhibits, he had an archaeologist girlfriend, she got a job heading the museum that oversees the mounds. I visited her every year when I was young. When I couldn't figure out where I wanted to move after getting married (except I knew that I didn't want it be Chicago) this was easy, familiar, and cheap.)
patesden
Aug. 26th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
Sounds like a wonderful place to walk. Egrets are one of my favorites, well so are dragonflies and swifts--that makes the place a total win for me.
amberdine
Aug. 26th, 2010 04:53 am (UTC)
At the park where I walk almost every day, going out at dusk recently has been amazing for dragonflies. Hundreds of them, BIG ones, zipping back and forth, everywhere you look. I can stay for over an hour in a giant expanse of grass, lake, and marsh, without a single mosquito bite! Best bugs ever. (Swifts get in on the action too, but it was mostly dragonflies.)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )