Visitors Guide to the
Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area
2755 Refuge Road
Jonesboro, Illinois

Accessible Parking Accessible Wildlife Viewing Accessible Information Center Fishing Opportunities Boat Ramp Accessible Hunting Opportunities Accessible Restrooms


The Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area was acquired by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in the late 1940s and developed a wintering goose population in excess of 50,000 birds by 1964. Since then, controlled harvest through the quota system and continued provision of quality winter sanctuary and food have contributed to a total southern Illinois winter population of nearly 500,000 Canada geese. The Union County segment of this population varies from 50,000 to 100,000 each winter.

The area encompasses 6,202 acres in the Lower Mississippi River bottomlands division of Illinois. Numerous shallow sloughs and other water areas totaling approximately 1,100 acres are scattered throughout the area. More prominent water areas include Grassy Lake with 350 acres and Lyerla Lake with 275 acres. Of the 5,350-acre land area, approximately 2,400 acres are cultivated. The remaining acreage is timber, brush or permanent grass cover. Each year a variety of hard grain and green forage crops are planted and left standing to provide food for the wintering geese. Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area is a haven for many diverse forms of wildlife including white-tailed deer, and bald and golden eagles.

Public use in the refuge is limited. Sightseeing and wildlife photography are permitted and the area is one of the few places in Illinois where so many wild geese can be closely observed and photographed in their natural habitat. Fishing is permitted from March 1 to October 15. Grassy Lake is a shallow, fertile bottomland lake with catfish, the primary sport fish attraction. Excellent early spring and late summer bluegill and crappie fishing exists in Lyerla Lake. Approximately 2,050 acres at the south end of the main site are designated as a Public Hunting Area.

  Bird Watching
The Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area
is listed on the National Audubon Society's Great River Birding Trail. The area is noted for its phenomenal flock of Canada Geese and other waterfowl which winter on the area. Pileated and red-headed woodpeckers are common in the woodlands and shorebirds, wading birds, and raptors may be seen. In summer, Mississippi Kites are present.
  Visiting the Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area
          Area Hours: Dawn - Dusk
          Office Hours: Monday - Friday: 8 am - 3 pm

There is no charge to visit the Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area.
Directions: The Office/Visitor Center is located 7 miles west of the town square in Jonesboro, Il on IL-146 and then, (after turning left or south on Refuge Road), 2 miles in on Refuge Road. The Public Hunting Area entrance is located just east of the intersection of IL-3 and Reynoldsville Road, across the railroad tracks and left on the first gravel road.
  Learn more about the Jonesboro area.  
  Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area
The official website of the
Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area.
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