Conservation, Vision, and Science


Achieving Conservation Milestones

The Nature Conservancy and many local, state, and federal partners spent almost seven years planning Emiquon’s transformation from farm field to thriving floodplain. The team’s ultimate vision is what you see at Emiquon today—a restored floodplain that supports nearly 300 species of birds, as well as fish and other wildlife, and is enjoyed by hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

The Conservancy and its partners recently completed the next phase of restoration at Emiquon: the construction of a managed gate between the floodplain and the Illinois River. The gate is called Ahsapa, which signifies “web” in Myaamia, the language of some of Emiquon’s early Native American inhabitants. This name demonstrates how everything in nature is connected. It allows managed, seasonal water exchanges between Emiquon and the Illinois River to recreate more natural water levels and fluctuations at the preserve. Restoring these cyclical water processes keeps Emiquon’s habitats from degrading and supports healthy fish and wildlife communities. Additionally, the gate was designed with science in mind: it features two sampling bays where researchers can monitor nutrients, water quality, fish, and other organisms moving between Emiquon and the river.

Creating a Vision for the Future

The Conservancy is committed to the preservation of the Illinois River. The restoration of Emiquon enables scientific research and ecological restoration of an area that is considered the linchpin for recovery of the ecosystem. Thanks to studies conducted at Emiquon, scientists better understand how vital floodplains and the natural flooding cycle are to the health of rivers, lands, and the people and communities that depend on them.

In the future, we have a chance to further advance this understanding to unlock new conservation solutions. We are committed to working with partners to develop more effective processes for restoring wetland habitat, mitigating disaster risk, activating the benefits of more natural flooding, and controlling the movement of invasive species. We are developing new conservation practices that provide benefits to both nature and people, from local landowners to large downstream cities. The potential impact of this intensive science work at Emiquon is extraordinary. From right here in Illinois, we can set a new course for rivers and floodplains across the world.

Local Science, Global Results

Guided by recommendations from the Emiquon Science Advisory Council, a group of more than 40 scientists of regional and national acclaim, the Conservancy’s work at Emiquon is on the leading edge of the evolving field of restoration science. From computer models that guide the preserve’s restoration and management, to one-of-a-kind research being conducted at the gate, science at Emiquon improves our understanding of floodplain restoration and management. The results of this science are shared with similar projects across the country, including wetland restorations where the Illinois River connects with the Mississippi and eventually sends water all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Emiquon even impacts conservation at a global scale, as scientists working to protect river systems like the Yangtze in China, the Paraguay-Paraná in South America and the Magdalena in Colombia have all learned from research happening at Emiquon.

Visit our website to learn more about The Nature Conservancy's Emiquon Wetland Preserve.