Horseshoe Lake and Oakwood Bottoms
The trip to Horseshoe Lake will transport you back in time … not to the Revolutionary War, not to ancient Greece, but to the dawn of time. Thousands of tupelo and cypress trees give Horseshoe Lake the ambiance of a land before time.
With each twist in the road you get the feeling a brontosaurus could come ambling through the cypress trees.
Like the rest of Southern Illinois, deer and turkey abound near Horseshoe Lake. In the fall, winter and early spring it is a waterfowl paradise, home to thousands of ducks, Canada geese, white-fronted geese and even trumpeter swans. With all that waterfowl, bald eagles are also spotted frequently.
The nearby Mississippi River frequently spills into surrounding fields, creating perfect habitat for shorebirds and wading birds such as herons, egrets, yellowlegs and sandpipers. And, Horseshoe Lake is a haven for warblers in the spring.
Oakwood Bottoms was built by the U.S. Forest Service as habitat for waterfowl. The flooded fields attract several species of ducks. The Greentree Reservoir boardwalk inserts you directly into woodpecker, titmouse and nuthatch habitat. Prothonotary warblers are a fixture in the spring and summer months.
And, depending on Mississippi River levels, the Grand Tower Levee Road, located conveniently between the two sites can be a wildlife magnet. When the Big Muddy River overflows its banks the area surrounding Grand Tower provides forage for thousands of great blue herons, little blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets and cattle egrets. Sandpipers and yellowlegs abound.
In the past year, the tropical black-bellied whistling duck has been seen in impressive numbers.
Finally, the Union County Refuge, located just north of the levee, attracts thousands of snow and white-fronted geese and frequently provides trumpeter swan viewing.