The Donnelley/DePue State Fish and Wildlife Areas complex is managed primarily for migratory waterfowl. Frank C. Bellrose, world-renown waterfowl expert, designated this Great Bend as the entry point to the lower Illinois River valley, an important North American waterfowl migration corridor.
The Donnelley/DePue complex is home to a $1 million State Duck Stamp Project, which was funded through State Duck Stamp dollars, State of Illinois Capital Development Board funds and Ducks Unlimited M.A.R.S.H. contributions. This project greatly increased the complex's ability to provide significant sanctuary with dependable food resources as well as increased services to the high hunting demands of northern Illinois.
These state wildlife areas contain a variety of wetland habitats critical to migratory waterfowl. Consequently, much of the 3,015-acre complex is managed for waterfowl feeding, nesting, resting, hunting and viewing.
Fishing and Boating
Since these areas border the Illinois River, boating and fishing are popular activities. Species of interest to anglers include walleye, sauger, white bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, drum, crappie, bullhead and carp.
The site of one of the nation's first public youth waterfowl hunts, Donnelley continues to offer two youth hunts a year. The area also has an accessible blind, the first in the state.
This site has the reputation of offering a high-quality public hunting experience approaching the atmosphere of the traditional private club. Within a few miles, the two oldest private duck clubs in the state still operate and serve as reminders of "the way it used to be."
The daily blind draw, held one hour before shooting hours for 15 blinds, requires a $10 usage stamp per person. This covers the boat, blind and equipment use. Outboard motors are not allowed.
Lake DePue and Spring Lake in Bureau County have rich histories of commercial hunting and fishing, attesting to the wildlife bounty of the area.
The DePue Rod and Gun Club was organized in the early 1900s, and it was not long before the hunting reputation of the area attracted members from around Illinois. When the state acquired the property in 1970, the clubhouse gun racks still carried well-known names of some past governors and influential businessmen.
Over the years the state has added several properties, bringing the backwater lakes and wetlands to 2,350 acres available for waterfowl needs and water-based recreation. The village of DePue offers access to Lake DePue. DePue and Spring lakes are accessible from the Illinois River, depending on the river levels.
Blind sites are allocated by yearly draw, with the exception of a few daily blind draws. Registered blind builders must claim blind use daily one hour before shooting hours, with unclaimed blinds becoming open to daily draw. Hunters must supply their own boats and decoys.