Full boardwalk trail now open at Dixon Refuge

The Wetlands Initiative has completed the second phase of a new boardwalk trail to increase public access at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes.

The trail, which is a raised boardwalk through wetlands and crushed gravel through the drier areas, leads visitors through a variety of restored native prairie and wetland habitats, including marsh, sand prairie, and sedge meadow. It begins near the observation tower parking lot and continues a half-mile south to the boat launch parking lot.

Guests at the refuge anniversary event September 10 explore the rich wetlands and prairie along the new boardwalk trail.

"The areas this trail passes through are some of the most high-quality and diverse natural communities at the refuge," said Gary Sullivan, Initiative senior ecologist. "It gives people an opportunity to see unique and uncommon plants and animals up-close, and to experience the site in a whole new way."

With support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, construction on the first phase was completed in fall 2011. At the same time, the Wetlands Initiative placed seven new interpretive signs at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, including two along the new trail. The signs create a richer experience by informing the visitor about the site's history, flora and fauna, and rare ecosystems.

The trail's second phase was completed in spring 2012 with support from the Tellabs Foundation, and added a second stretch of boardwalk to link the observation tower and boat launch. The finished trail is a half-mile long and provides visitors with a beautiful and educational walk between the dock and tower.

The Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, located along the Illinois River, is owned by the Wetlands Initiative and several nonprofit organizations and is managed by the Initiative. Since 2001, the Initiative has been restoring the site to re-create high-quality backwater lakes, wetlands, and prairies to improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat, and give the public a place to enjoy Illinois' historic native landscapes. Previously, the lakes had been drained for 90 years to support corn and soybean farming.

Plan a visit to the refuge soon to enjoy the new trail and signs!