PEORIA — The interpretive signs are up for a new trail highlighting the rich heritage of waterfowling and conservation in the Illinois River Valley.
The Miles C. Hauter Trail, which was named after a Peoria businessman and conservationist, was created by Ducks Unlimited and the Miles C. Hauter Foundation. The trail features a series of informational panels along 10 historical waypoints along the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. The route winds along Illinois Routes 29 and 26, from Hennepin south to Peoria. Along the way, visitors can learn about the area’s duck hunting history and explore the conservation work done by Ducks Unlimited and its partners to conserve Illinois River wetlands.
“What’s really great about this trail is that it really connects the importance of conservation to the people around it,” said Chris Sebastian, the public affairs coordinator with Ducks Unlimited. “It has a number of conservation sites and wildlife areas, but it also has Bass Pro Shops and the Midway Duck Inn. All these places exist because of the land around them. It shows the importance of the use of the wildlife habitat in the community.”
Duck hunting has a long history in central Illinois. Before dams and levees were built to control the Illinois River, it regularly flooded surrounding land, providing rich habitat for waterfowl. Through Ducks Unlimited’s Big Rivers Initiative conservation program, more than 7,000 acres of backwater lakes and wetlands have been protected, enhanced or restored along the river.
Wetlands are important to the environment in many ways — they filter out silt and pollutants from storm water before it hits major waterways, and they also provide habitat for all sorts of wildlife, including migrating ducks.
“We are on a major migration route,” said Sebastian. “Wetlands provide the food and shelter that ducks need to feed their young. The bulk of waterfowl are born in the northern prairies and migrate in the fall. As they are migrating, they need resting spots along the way.”
The Hauter Trail provides opportunities to see some of these wetlands, but it also highlights some of the cultural traditions that have grown around duck hunting in central Illinois. The production of duck decoys became an art form — the Charles Perdew Museum in Henry contains a collection of hand-carved and painted decoys and duck calls by Charles and Edna Perdew, artists who have been recognized internationally for their work. The Hauter Trail also has a stop at Bass Pro Shops, which carries most everything a duck hunter needs, because the company has partnered with Ducks Unlimited in many conservation efforts.
“Wetland conservation projects are not always easily accessible or identifiable, and the Hauter Trail’s goal is to minimize those challenges for easy viewing,” said Mark Schore, Illinois Ducks Unlimited volunteer and Illinois DU conservation committee chairman. “These engagement opportunities introduce people to the outdoors, provide context on why these wetlands are important to many species of wildlife and highlight Ducks Unlimited’s mission of conserving wetland habitat.”
An interactive online map of the tour is available at www.ducks.org/illinois shows waypoint locations.
“People can go to the website and take the interactive digital tour if they can’t get out there and see it in person,” said Sebastian. “They can learn about central Illinois’ heritage of waterfowling and conservation right from their phones or computers.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.