JIM EDGAR PANTHER CREEK STATE FISH & WILDLIFE AREA
Formerly Known as “Site M” Why “Site M”? The story most accepted is that the “M” stood for Menard County, where the Edison Company had purchased several hundred coal-bearing acres as a fuel source for the proposed electric plant. ComEd’s land office was also in Menard County and it was assumed the new facility would also be in Menard County. Though the company ultimately bought Cass County land for the plant, the complex had already been carrying the “Site M” designation for some time. Many names were suggested for the site, but when Jim Edgar was Governor, Site M became more than just a piece of land. Edgar often toured the area, recognized its inherent beauty and had the vision to make “M” a conservation as well as a recreation area. It was during his term as governor that the land was purchased and the plans were made. Governor Edgar made sure the state would invest to preserve the site for future generations. This Breathtaking Setting
Recreation and Activities JEPC provides a wonderful recreation area for all types of outdoor activities. Many visitors come just to enjoy the beau- tiful natural setting. JEPC has camping and picnicking areas to accommodate these people. Gridley, Drake and Prairie Lakes, along with Painter and Geiss Ponds, are equipped with restrooms and picnic facilities making them pleasant places to spend the day. These areas also have shelters that can be reserved or used on a first come, first serve basis. The camp- ground at JEPC features nine rental cabins on the shoreline of Prairie Lake and 18 class AA sites with sewer and water hookups. There are also 64 class A sites along with a primitive camping area. For the more active visitor, twenty-four miles of mountain bike trail form a 17-mile loop, a 5-mile loop and two miles of connecting trail. From April 16th – May 15th the trails are open from noon to dusk. From May 16th – October 31st they remain open from sunrise to sunset. From November 1st – April 15th the trail is closed to mountain bikers and becomes available to hikers. A three-mile hiking and jogging trail also loops around Gridley Lake. JEPC also accommodates hunters, fishers, boaters and horse- back riders. Hunting for white-tail deer, wild turkey, mourning dove, upland species, furbearers and squirrels is permitted during the appropriate season. Gridley Lake, Prairie Lake and Drake Lake offer opportunities for sport fishing, as do streams throughout the wildlife area. Boats with trolling motors and canoes are welcomed on Gridley and Drake Lakes. Prairie Lake has a 10 h.p. limit and also allows sail boats. A 26-mile equestrian trail is situated in the northwest corner of the wild- life area. It is open from April 16th – May 15th from noon until dusk, and from sunrise to sunset May 16th – October 31st.
The rolling countryside, mature timber and grassland, prime agri- cultural land and rare hill prairie of the site provide a bounty of plants and wildlife. The setting is enhanced by the natural meanders of Cox and Panther Creeks, as well as improvements including new lakes, trails, roads and camp- grounds. The 16,550-acre site is one of the Department of Natural Resources’ largest public access areas.
Several rare species of plants found in Illinois grow in the wild- life area, which consist of the lady’s-slipper orchid, the savan- na blazing star, the pale false foxglove, large-seeded mercury and Hill’s thistle. Eighty-seven species of breeding birds have been identified at JEPC including, most notably, the eastern bluebird, orchard oriole and lark sparrow. Conservation efforts at JEPC are ongoing. The Department of Natural Resources is currently working to enhance its forest wildlife habitat. Two man-made wetlands were constructed in 1999 and hundreds of acres of native grasses have been restored to the area.