To promote predictable navigation of the Illinois River, the United States and State of Illinois in the 1870s and 1880s constructed locks and dams at Henry, Copperas Creek, LaGrange, and Kampsville. The Copperas Creek Lock and Dam were completed in 1876. The dam raised the river five feet from Copperas Creek, near Banner, to Henry, Illinois, nearly 60 miles north. Completion of the project linked the river to the Illinois & Michigan Canal at LaSalle and opened the way for water transportation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. In 1933, the Corps of Engineers opened a new series of locks and dams on the Illinois River to facilitate navigation of the upper reach of the river.
With Banner Marsh a mile north, Rice Lake behind you and Spring Lake across the river, Copperas Creek gives you easy access to a wild portion of the river in the midst of three large wild patches. There are no hiking trails, but if you are visiting these other sites, then Copperas Creek is a short detour, well worth the drive, to scan the river for migratory shorebirds, waders and waterfowl, as well as wintering eagles. The Lock and Dam were dismantled when new locks and dams were built south of Peoria and Beardstown. Much of the old lock structure is still visible. Rarely seen, and some say it is just a myth, but look for the little bird who makes its nest in the lock, a nest made of moss, the globally endangered Lock Moss Nester. There is also a boat access ramp, making this one of the better places to bird by boat.