Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois.
The Crab Orchard Wilderness now contains a total of 4,050 acres and is managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service's Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. All of the Wilderness is in the state of Illinois. In 1976 the Crab Orchard Wilderness became part of the now over 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System.
Smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi Flyway, 43,500-acre Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge provides a winter feeding and resting area for an average of 40,000 Canada geese each year. Agriculture and logging in the early 1900s so depleted this region of forest, wetland, and grassland that wildlife could barely subsist here. The refuge was formed in 1947 to restore an adequate ground for geese, ducks, wild turkeys, a multitude of white-tailed deer, and small mammals including coyotes, beavers, opossums, and raccoons. Five thousand acres of the refuge are planted each year to feed wildfowl.
Most people visit the refuge to bird-watch, hunt, and fish. Anglers cast a line for bass, bluegill, and crappie on Crab Orchard Lake, Devil's Kitchen Lake, Little Grassy Lake, and many smaller lakes. The Wilderness forms the southern tip of the refuge and encompasses sections of Little Grassy Lake and Devil's Kitchen Lake. Several parking lots and boat launches provide easy access to the water. Within Crab Orchard Wilderness boundaries lie dramatic sandstone outcroppings, wood-lined creeks, and potential seclusion, but there are no maintained trails. Camping is restricted to designated campsites, of which there are none in the Wilderness area (except for preexisting camps for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts).
Call the visitor center for more information about the Wilderness area at 618-997-3344 ext. 1 or visit the Refuge visitor center located at 8588 Route 148 in Marion. It is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The visitor center offers exhibits of local wildlife and habitats, as well as maps, regulatory brochures and entrance passes.