A perfect destination for RV lovers looking to get away from it all, Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area is home to over 16,000 acres of land with activities perfect for large and small groups. Located in Cass County, Illinois, the human settlement in the area dates back to the mid-1800s when it was once a part of a territory controlled by Native Americans. After Europeans began to populate the area, a Chicago-based company purchased the land hoping to use it for coal manufacturing. More than 100 years later, the property became an official part of the Jim Edgar Panther Creek in 2001. The park opened its gate to the public and has since been part of the wider goal of protecting the wildlife of Illinois.
The park remains open year-round and has plenty of great recreational activities available for visitors of all ages. Each summer you can find campers swimming or fishing near the lakes, trying out their skills on the archery range, or horseback riding through the prairie. The winter offers hiking, a random snowball fight, and the opportunity to learn about the beautiful birds and wildlife that call the park home.
Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area has two campgrounds for visitors to use. Not all campsites come with full hookups, but there are dumping stations and water spigots nearby to provide for that lack of a connection. Questing Hills Campground is for travelers with horses only, while Prairie Lake Campground is for campers is open to all other visitors. If you are looking for some alternate camping opportunities the park also has nine cabins and two group camping areas that are reservable. Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area enjoys warm summers and cold winters with the peak season running from April until October.
Jim Edgar Panther Creek Park is located just outside the township of Panther Creek. The area does not have much development due to the conservation efforts of the state, so you will feel like you are in the middle of nowhere during your motorhome getaway. Despite the lack of development in the immediate area, you can find a few boutiques and grocery stores on your way to the park in the towns of Chandlerville (around seven miles away), Virginia (around 10 miles away), and Petersburg (around 13 miles away). Many campers advise visitors to stock up on gas before entering the park.
The entrance to the park is along State Route 11 and maintained by the park's staff. Roads are wide and have very few potholes, if any, along the ride in. You will find that there are parking lots near all major campgrounds and docking stations.
Due to the location of the park's entrance, roads may close in the event of inclement weather. Be sure the check the weather before you depart on your trip and take a few moments to call the park if you anticipate arriving later than you initially intended to. They will be able to give you details on possible accommodations and where to sign in.
If you are just visiting for the day there is a parking area at the main entrance and near Prairie Lake. Otherwise, it's best to park your RV at your campsite.
Questing Hills Campground is the perfect place for equestrian campers to call home during their visit to the park. The campground is equipped with a 22-space parking lot that is designed for horse owners and their mares. There are 51 electric sites, 18 sites with sewer and water hookups, and 64 more class A sites.
You will be able to enjoy the large lots with plenty of space and shade. Hitching posts are provided to anchor your horse while you explore the park on foot or by bike. Amenities include a fire pit, washrooms, picnic tables, and the sound of nature every morning and night. Be sure to bring your own feed for your horse and reserve a site in advance to guarantee that you and your horse will have a place to camp during your stay.
The Prairie Lake Campground is the main camping area that most of the RV visitors to the park will use during their stay. The campground has 84 sites available for RV and trailer camping, 19 of which come with full hookups. The remaining sites have either water and electrical or only electrical connections, so everyone will get to experience some creature comforts.
The sites at the campground are known for having partial to full shade but due to the campground being in a prairie you will lack some privacy from your neighbor. Amenities within the campground include fire grills, hot showers, picnic tables, and restrooms. Only firewood sold in the park may be used as you are prohibited from gathering wood from fallen trees without the park's approval.
You may stay 14 days at a time in 30 days from May to September after which you may be able to stay longer than the 14-day limit. Reservations are available up to 180 days in advance.
If you fancy a little more luxury than a tent or RV you should consider booking one of the cabins that are available at the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area. There are nine different cabins for you to choose from (including one that is ADA-accessible) that can all accommodate up to six people.
The layout of the cabins features two rooms that contain multiple bunk and standard beds. The cabins do feature electricity, and there is a picnic table and fire ring to use for cooking outside. Please note that you must bring your own bedding to the park if you wish to stay in one of the cabins as none is provided.
For those traveling to the park with a larger group, there are also two group camping areas for you to choose from. The group camping sites are very large and can accommodate up to 250 people. They also have electrical hookups and are pet-friendly.
If you longing for a more rustic experience, you might want to stay in one of the seven primitive campsites available. Each site comes with a three-sided shelter. Keep in mind that you'll have to hike or bike a quarter-mile from the parking lot to get to the sites.
If you want to explore more of the park try using a GPS-enabled device and go geocaching with your family and friends. You will need a fresh pair of eyes, snowshoes (in case it snows), a pencil/pen, an understanding of the rules, the nose of a hound, the spirit of a pirate, and your own set of treasure to trade once you have found a cache. Be sure to leave a cache area as neat and organized as you found it to keep the adventure going for the future treasure hunters.
While most of the trails within the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area are closed for the winter, the hiking trails are open all year-round. Throw your hiking boots in your RV and check out the trail maps online before you arrive so that you can choose which trails suit your needs. One of the most challenging trails is the Drake Loop that contains five miles of moderate to challenging paths. For hikers looking for a long exploration, you can't beat the 17-mile Prairie Loop.
The park has several shooting ranges that are suitable for both guns and bows. While there aren't any guns for rent, if you don't have your own bow there some are available for you to borrow from the park office. Make sure you let park staff know if you haven't used a bow and arrow before so that they can give you a rundown and lesson on how to use it safely. Hot tip: You may need to acquire a map before you decide to search for the archery range due to the large area of the park.
Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area has some great mountain biking trails that are suitable for riders of all experience levels. In total there are 24 miles of mountain biking trails open during the peak season that range from being easy to severe in difficulty. Be sure to take water with you on the trails and wear a fitted helmet to protect yourself against accidents. Maps are also recommended since the trails are quite long.
If you are thinking about bringing your horse to the park, you should!. There are more than 20 miles of trails set aside for horseback riding in the park, so you will have plenty of places to explore. Open only during the peak season, the trail will be available for you to use until dusk between mid-April and mid-May, but after these months it will be open from dawn to dusk until the season finishes. Horses must be kept in either their stables or in the sight of their owner when you aren't riding, and there are no guided tours available for visitors who don't have their own horse. There is a large equestrian campground on-site.
The park draws thousands of sport anglers from all over the country each summer who are looking to catch record-breaking fish. Gridley, Drake, and Prairie Lakes all are prime locations for shoreline and on-the-water fishing. You can find parking lots, picnic areas, docking stations, grills, and boat rentals near each lake, so if you aren't fishing there will still be plenty to do. If you forget to bring a rod in your RV, you can rent or buy one in town or borrow one from a friendly camper. The lakes are stocked yearly with bass, catfish, and sunfish.