JIM EDGAR PANTHER CREEK STATE FISH WILDLIFE AREA
A 26-square mile tract situated in the gently rolling countryside of west-central Illinois, Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area (JEPC) is one of the Department's largest public access areas.
A mosaic of mature forest land, agricultural land and grassland, Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area is dissected by Panther and Cox creeks and their tributaries. In addition to 6,000 acres of timberland and 4,200 acres of prime farmland, Site M contains a rare hill prairie. It also is home to a rich assortment of wildlife, from endangered species that include Indiana bat, northern harrier and red-shouldered hawk, to such game species white-tailed deer, wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant and mourning dove.
An outstanding example of the original loess hill prairies of central Illinois is JEPC's Cox Creek Hill Prairie Natural Area. The 175-acre site encompasses remnants of scattered hill prairies composed of loess (windblown silt), which occur within forest openings on steep terrain where soils are droughty and well-drained. Among the plant species found on loess hill prairies are little bluestem, side-oats grama, fringed puccoon, wild petunia and prairie dock.
Several rare Illinois plant species grow here. The small white lady's-slipper orchid has state-endangered status, while four other plants are listed as state-threatened species: the savanna blazing star, the pale false foxglove, large-seeded mercury and Hill's thistle.
Surveys have identified 87 species of breeding birds here as well. Among the notable residents are eastern bluebird, orchard oriole and lark sparrow, plus 11 warbler species, five types of woodpecker and three species of owl. Loggerhead shrikes, a threatened species in Illinois, have been observed at the site, as have endangered northern harriers and red-shouldered hawks.
Settled and farmed by the mid-1800s, the contiguous farmsteads that composed Jim Edgar Panther Creek were purchased from 1968-1974 by Commonwealth Edison for development of a coal-fired, electric-power generating plant and a 5,000-acre cooling lake. The company named the 16,550 -acre tract "Site M" for nearby Menard County where coal to fuel the power plant was to mined.
Commonwealth Edison leased about half of the acreage for cropland, and through a cooperative agreement with the Department of Natural Resources, also provided limited upland and forest game hunting. Through the years, hunters applying for permits to the area became well-acquainted with the Site M name.
Commonwealth Edison abandoned its plans to build a power plant at Site M in the 1980s, citing decreased electrical demands, and offered the land for sale. By virtue of its size and location, Site M became an unparalleled opportunity for the Department of Natural Resources to address critical conservation needs and meet outdoor recreation demands. With funds specifically designated for conservation purposes, the state of Illinois added the acreage to the public trust in June 1993, making Site M the largest tract ever acquired by the Department. Hereafter Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area shall be referred to as JEPC.
Effective January 1, 2001, Panther Creek Conservation area was absorbed into JEPC in an effort to avoid confusion and simplify site regulations. This brings the total acres of JEPC to 16,550. This portion of the site will be known as the West Open Unit.
Full Hookup Sitesyes
There are two campgrounds at JEPC. Prairie Lake Campground has 84 sites, 19 are full hookup sites with sewer drops and water at the sites. The other sites all have electricity. There are also nine rent a cabins located in the campground. The cabins are reservable but the campsites are not. The cabins are located on the shore of Prairie Lake and offer a great view. The cabins have two rooms with the back room containing two bunk beds. The front room has a double bed, drop down table and a couple chairs. All beds are equipped with mattresses but you must bring your own bedding. You can not cook or smoke inside the cabins. There is a concrete patio outside each cabin with a grill and table. All cabins have electricity, ceiling fans, and a 1000 watt heater. They rent for per night and can be reserved for an additional charge. On weekends you must reserve cabins for two nights. To reserve a cabin call 217-452-7741 Monday- Friday 7-3. Reservations must be made by Tuesday at 3 PM for any date the rest of the week. Reservations can be cancelled with three days written notice with the camping fee returned minus the reservation fee. We also have an equestrian campground, Questing Hills, with 51 electric sites.
A Class AA campground is available with 18 sites that have sewer drops and water hookups at individual sites and 64 class A sites. A new shower building is also available. No Reservations are being accepted for the Class AA or the Class A sites.
The primitive camping area at Jim Edgar Panther Creek is also open. Seven three-sided shelters are available to camp near or camp in for a fee of $6 per night. Hikers and mountain bike riders must travel approximately a quarter mile from the nearest parking lot to access the shelters.