Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area, located along nearly 10 miles of scenic Illinois River backwaters, bottomlands and bluffs, lies in the heart of the mallard flyway and supports a wide variety of animals, plants and outdoor pursuits.
With an initial land purchase in 1925, the three unit area has grown to include approximately 6,000 acres, of which half is land and half is water.
The largest of the units is the Marshall Unit, consisting of 3,000 acres east of the Illinois River and adjacent to Route 26. The area headquarters is found here, along with a small campground, boat ramp, fishing channel, hunter check station and hiking trails. Terrain varies from ravine-cut bluffs to bottomland lakes, islands and sloughs.
The Spring Beach Unit contains 1,642 acres (537 acres of water) on the west side of the Illinois River between Sparland and Chillicothe. The unit spans Marshall and Peoria counties. There is a 6-acre picnic area, fishing, and access to hunting and hiking trails adjacent to Route 29. The habitat ranges from upland forest to riverbottom to cropland.
The Sparland Unit, the smallest of the three, consists of 1,280 acres, of which 1,110 acres are water. Lying between Route 29 and the Illinois River, Sparland is predominantly used as a waterfowl hunting area, although at times fishing is quite popular. The backwater is very shallow and boat access is difficult during low water.