Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1936 for the main purpose of providing sanctuary for the millions of birds that migrate along the Illinois River. Today, Chautauqua refuge provides sanctuary and breeding ground for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife. The refuge has been designated as a Important Bird Area, accepted into the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The refuge is part of the traditional homeland of the Illinois people, past and present.
lush moist soil vegetation and ribbon of shallow water against a brilliant blue sky from 100 feet in the air
Looking for Volunteers!

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge is an important stopping ground for migratory birds during their travels along the Illinois River. It is important for the American people to understand the significance of wetlands along the Illinois River floodplain. The best way to appreciate these lands and their purpose is to work on it and become part of its mission. 

Most of the trails on the refuge are primitive due to lack of funding, personnel, and time. There is one trail that parallels with lake Chautauqua for nearly 5 miles. Along this trail: Hickories, silver maple, hackberries, sassafras, and black oak trees. Bush honeysuckle threatens to outcompete native species and stunt established trees. 

The refuge needs your help clearing this trail. If you would like to volunteer or have questions, please email elizabeth_navas@

Make new friends while working on your public lands!

Visit Us

Dreamy sunset view from the Chautauqua refuge Nature Trail Overlook.

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of recreational activities, from birding and wildlife watching to hunting and fishing. Step out onto one of our many viewing platforms to see why the refuge is a regionally and globally Important Bird Area.

Location and Contact Information


      For a tour around the refuge, contact Elizabeth Navas (309) 535-2290 ext. 14

      Our Species

      Abundant communities of fish, wildlife and plants live and migrate through the open wetlands, backwater lakes, bottomland forests, savanna bluffs and prairies at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. The variety of habitats benefit wildlife and sighting are plentiful no matter the time of year.