Discover the magnificence and beauty of the wild turkey
Try bird watching this Thanksgiving and spy a wild turkey! (STE/Karen Beisel)
What You’ll Find
A thriving population of wild turkey. Take time to get to know this magnificent bird outside, and off the menu, in its wild and natural environment. Strutting and scratching for food amongst the hardwood forest of Illinois’ Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, the wild turkey is a familiar bird year-round on the refuge. Visitors can also spot white tailed deer and bald eagles in the oak-hickory forest and fish or boat the local reservoirs, like Crab Orchard Lake.
Once an important food source, wild turkeys were eliminated from much of their range by the early 1900s, owing to unregulated hunting and loss of habitat. A modern conservation success story, flocks have since been reintroduced in many places, like Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Male birds, known as gobblers, measure almost four feet in height and weigh up to 25 pounds (11 kg); hens can get up to 15 pounds (6 kg). Check out these eight wild facts about the turkey from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is located in southern Illinois. The refuge visitor center is located five miles west of Marion, Illinois, and five miles south of Herrin, Illinois, on State Route 148. 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, brochures and refuge entrance passes.
From quaint bed and breakfast inns to local hotels, surrounding towns like Carbondale and Marion offer several lodging options.
When southern Illinois warms up, camping is available spring through fall at Crab Orchard’s campgrounds including Crab Orchard Lake, Devils Kitchen Lake, Little Grassy Lake and Blue Heron Campgrounds. For more information about amenities and availability, call the campgrounds directly.
Join a F.U.N. program! “Families Understanding Nature” or F.U.N. is a free program hosted by the refuge every second Saturday of the month. Held at the visitor center, staff from Free Again Wildlife Rehabilitation present a different animal, like the vulture, bald eagle, raccoon, or deer fawn, with a live demonstration, followed by fun wildlife-themed activities.
Make Sure You
Begin your visit with a hike! Try one of Crab Orchard’s six designated nature trails. The easy to moderate Wild Turkey Trail (PDF) at Devils Kitchen Lake winds through the woods along several ridge tops for 1.7 miles (2.7 km). For more of a challenge, take the connecting 2.2-mile (3.5 km) Rocky Bluff Trail. Walk quietly to increase your chance of seeing wild turkeys, deer and other migratory birds.
Fall and winter in the refuge means the bald eagles are bonding with their mates and nesting. Home to six nesting pairs of resident bald eagles and their offspring, the eagles are often visible from refuge roads and around Crab Orchard Lake. Every January, visitors can join refuge staff for a bald eagle tour. Space is limited and tours are popular – call early to reserve a tour at (618) 997-3344.
Visit Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge to start planning your next outdoor adventure – whether to observe the magnificent wild turkey, photograph the nesting bald eagles or discover a new hiking trail – there’s something for everyone to enjoy! You can also follow Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook.
public service of 8B Ranch
public service of 8B Ranch