Banner Marsh Water Trail Project
Exciting things are happening in Central Illinois! A new water trail project has been in the making over the last year and the signs should be installed in the first loop of the 4 planned loops very soon known as the Wheel Lake loop. These “Loop Trails” will not require car shifts as you end up where you started! I targeted only one trail per year but if time permits I will attempt to install the second loop trail signs this fall on Johnson lake. If not, they will be in place by spring of 2016.
The SFWA embraced the water trail idea when I presented it to them and they gave me permission to lay out the first water trail this area has ever seen! Banner has 4 main lakes and I am beginning with the northernmost lake, Wheel Lake. 350 acres at normal pool this lake has islands and many interesting coves to explore. This 4 mile loop has 100’s of options to deviate off of the trail but be aware of your surroundings as all lakes at Banner are very maze like. You could easily triple the loop mileage if you explored the whole shoreline. For deeper exploration, a nice hand held GPS is suggested.
Johnson Lake loop is a larger loop at a tentative 7.7 miles. This may change as most of my energy has been spent on the Wheel lake layout and the final route may change at Johnson. Johnson lake is the largest lake at Banner with 600 acres of water at normal pool. The loop trail here also offers 100’s of options off of the trail to explore. GPS again is suggested.
This excerpt is taken from the DNR web page:
“Banner Marsh State Fish & Wildlife Area is located approximately 25 miles southwest of Peoria on U.S. Route 24 and is protected from the Illinois River by a major levee. Teeming with fish and wildlife, Banner Marsh provides various outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing, boating, dog training, picnicking, wildlife observation and photography. Three public access areas lead into Banner Marsh, all of which have parking lots, boat ramps, restrooms and picnic areas. The only type of camping allowed at Banner Marsh is youth group camping. Nearby Rice Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area has camping facilities available.
Prior to the Department of Natural Resources purchasing tracts of land bordering the Illinois River in Fulton and Peoria counties during the 1980s, the area was used for agricultural purposes and surfaced mined for coal.
Today, Banner Marsh State Fish & Wildlife Area serves as a 4,363-acre freshwater marsh. More than 200-plus water bodies, and its vast acres of grassland and shrub land habitats provide excellent habitat for migrating and local waterfowl, numerous species of game fish and other wildlife, while providing opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts.”
Come explore Banner and paddle this beautiful lake system. Be mindful of waterfowl season October 17th-Jan31 as no boat traffic is permitted at that time. Call the Rice lake office as it is the office that governs both Rice lake and Banner Marsh. 309-647-9184 . Please remember that we are only one spoke in the wheel at Banner so please respect others, obey the closure times during hunting season and never intentionally interfere with the wildlife as we are in their world out here.