Illinois River Encounter

Learn the story of the Illinois River in this unique gallery. As you enter, you'll see a 400-gallon aquarium containing native fish species from the Illinois River. In the main exhibit, along one side, learn about the natural history of the river from the time of the Kankakee Torrent more than 14,000 years ago until the present. The opposite side tells the story of how humans have harnessed and changed the river. There are plenty of interactives in the middle, including locks and dams and historic flood displays.

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Topics & interactives include:

  • Origins of the River: Information about the Kankakee Torrent and the native peoples who lived along the Illinois River
  • River Ecosystems: Three dioramas show native plants and animals
  • Fishing: Learn about native and invasive species, the shell-button industry, and commercial fishing
  • Hunting and Trapping: See a “River Rat” cabin, a duck blind, and learn the history of hunting along on the river
  • Tomorrow’s River: Learn about groups working to improve the river environment, view a live feed to the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

The opposite side of the gallery focuses on the working river; topics & interactives of this part of the Illinois River Encounter include:

  • The River as Highway: Columbia riverboat disaster, barge experience, pristine river model
  • Floods and Levees: model of flood levels in Peoria, flood oral histories
  • Canals and Locks: navigating the Illinois River canal, wicket dam interactive, lock interactive

Illinois River Encounter classrooms:

  • CEFCU River classroom features A/V hookups, a screen, and tables & chairs to accommodate school groups (up to 30 people) for workshops & presentations
  • CEFCU River Science Lab (opposite end of the gallery) features a stream table, water testing equipment & other tools for guided hands-on investigations of the environment

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