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Postcard from Green River
State Wildlife Area      
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Note: Each week Joel Brunsvold, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, sends a postcard profile of a different Illinois state park, natural area or trail. This time the director is writing about Green River State Wildlife Area, located in northern Illinois.

[MAY 19, 2005]  HARMON -- Greetings from Green River,

This is a beautiful part of the state, but the story of this particular parcel of land in these last few weeks is the story of recovery. The Green River State Wildlife Area is a 2,565-acre wildlife restoration site. If you visit this park, you'll see the black scars left by fire, but more importantly, you'll see the signs of survival through hard times.

An arsonist struck here the end of March. When volunteer firefighters from Ohio and Walnut arrived, the fire stretched 3 miles long, with flames leaping 20 feet into the air, whipped by winds that pressed the fire on a path that left hundreds of acres charred.

Still, this is a land that is regenerating. Most of the grassy areas that were scorched have now regenerated into lush green grass, dotted even by wildflowers. Flames forced their way through a knoll of evergreens as well. While the heat of the fire killed many of those pines, the trees' progeny will replace them. The pine cones still cling to the evergreens' burned branches, and I'm told that when the pine cones drop from these trees, the seeds at the heart of the cones will sprout a new generation of evergreens.

It's hard to know what toll the fires took on the wildlife that calls Green River home. It's likely that not all the creatures found their way to safety, but many did. The ground squirrels burrowed beneath the soil and were safe as the flames roared on the ground above them. The turkeys, pheasant and other birds that live here were able to fly away, moving faster than the flames could spread.

In this land rejuvenating, there is much to enjoy. The turkey hunters have been here, although Old Tom is pretty good at avoiding them! The equestrian trail, which stretches 10 miles, is open and busy. The camping spaces fill up, especially on weekends. Hikers and bird-watchers can be spotted on the sandy trails that wind through the park.

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Spring is a time to reflect on the miracle of life, and that is what I am doing as I walk here at Green River. These verdant prairies in spring's sunshine are an inspiration. At many Illinois state parks, the vista inspires awe. Here, the patches of green grass, sprouting from blackened soil, are a reminder that even when times are hard, with a little warmth, the good things of this earth will prevail, even under the most adverse of circumstances.

Take care,
Joel Brunsvold

P.S. The Illinois Conservation Foundation is offering a $500 reward for conviction of the arsonist. Tips may be phoned to 1 (815) 625-2968.

Also in the parks:

  • May 19 -- Tiny Hikers Club, Giant City State Park

  • May 20 through June 5 -- Wildlife biologists conduct dove call counts to monitor breeding populations.

  • May 21 -- Baker Lake Kids Fishing Expo, Peru

  • May 21 -- 15th annual Festival of Arts and Crafts for Children, Illinois State Museum Southern Illinois Art Gallery, Rend Lake

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources news release]

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