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Crab Orchard Wilderness

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The United States Congress designated the Crab Orchard Wilderness (map) in 1976 and it now has a total of 4,050 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Illinois and is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Crab Orchard Wilderness is bordered by the Panther Den Wilderness to the south.


Smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi Flyway, 43,500-acre Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge provides a winter feeding and resting area for an average of 40,000 Canada geese each year. Agriculture and logging in the early 1900s so depleted this region of forest, wetland, and grassland that wildlife could barely subsist here. The refuge was formed in 1947 to restore an adequate ground for geese, ducks, wild turkeys, a multitude of white-tailed deer, and small mammals including coyotes, beavers, opossums, and raccoons. Five thousand acres of the refuge are planted each year to feed wildfowl.

Most people visit the refuge to bird-watch, hunt, and fish. Anglers cast a line for bass, bluegill, and crappie on Crab Orchard Lake, Devil's Kitchen Lake, Little Grassy Lake, and many smaller lakes. The Wilderness forms the southern tip of the refuge and encompasses sections of Little Grassy Lake and Devil's Kitchen Lake. Several parking lots and boat launches provide easy access to the water. Within Crab Orchard Wilderness boundaries lie dramatic sandstone outcroppings, wood-lined creeks, and potential seclusion, but there are no maintained trails. Camping is restricted to designated campsites, of which there are none in the Wilderness area (except for preexisting camps for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts). Fires are not permitted in the Wilderness.

Planning to Visit the Crab Orchard Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Crab Orchard Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.