An officially designated “Important Birding Area” (IBA), and purchased in the 1980’s by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, this 4,363-acre complex of freshwater marshes, shallow lakes, and deepwater habitat, boasts over 100 individual bodies of water which offer some of Illinois’ most sought after fishing.
During hunting seasons Banner Marsh is a very popular place with Illinois outdoorsmen. Diverse in habitat, wildlife species and management practices, Banner Marsh offers a variety of hunting opportunities, including waterfowl, dove, upland game and deer.
Banner Marsh serves as a major holding area for migrating waterfowl, Osprey, Bald Eagle, and Short-eared Owls, as well as many songbirds: Gray Catbird, Common Yellowthroat, and American Goldfinch. American lotus, a striking native water lily, shows pastel-yellow blooms all summer long. Belted Kingfishers and nesting Wood Ducks are common. Look for the shy American Bittern migrating through along with Sandhill Cranes, terns, and gulls. The Least Bittern has been known to nest here, as has the King Rail. Perhaps the most beautiful of the local wildflowers is swamp milkweed, with its lush pink flowers. Swamp milkweed is also an important host plant for the Monarch Butterfly, which inhabits the marsh during spring and fall migration. Look for this as well as Viceroy and Spangled Fritillary butterflies.
With more than 200 clear water bodies holding numerous species of fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, crappie, bluegill, redear, green sunfish and channel cat.
Because of the diversity of habitats and range of lakes and ponds, here, more than most places, it is important to spend some time with a site map to plan your tour. You can drive into several areas, hike the perimeter of some of the lakes or bring a canoe or kayak to view the many wetland waders and waterfowl.