Ray Norbut State Fish and Wildlife Area is a 1,140-acre mosaic of bottomlands, woodlands, wetlands, open fields, steep hills, rocky ravines, hollows, brushy draws and bluffs. Located along the Illinois River, it lies 5 miles east of Griggsville and 2 miles south of Valley City in Pike County. Big Blue Island, a narrow, 100-acre strip of land in the river, is part of the site. Other notable geographic features are two west-east flowing streams--Blue Creek, a river tributary, and the spring-fed Napoleon Hollow Creek.
This site provides exceptional habitat for a wide range of harvestable, non-harvestable, uncommon, threatened or endangered plants and animals. Examples are the bald eagle, a winter resident of the wooded blufflands, and the jeweled shooting star, a rare pre-glacial relict wildflower species. To provide a refuge for the eagles, portions of the bluff areas are closed to the public seasonally.
Oak and hickory are the dominant tree species in a woodland that also contains red cedar, red and white oak, sugar maple, ironwood, blue beech and, in the bottomlands, abundant willow, cottonwood and silver maple. The oak/hickory community is the highest quality forest in the region and supports a diverse assemblage of wildlife.
Forests, bluffs and limestone outcroppings are rich in wildflowers and ferns. Among the wildflowers are hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauties, toothwort, yellow bellwort, trout lily, trillium, wild ginger, larkspur, phlox, wild petunia, Venus looking glass and Mayapple. The ferns include cliffbrake, Christmas and woolly lip species.
Although intended primarily for public hunting, the area also beckons hikers and nature enthusiasts with several undeveloped trails, one of which has a trailhead parking lot. Fishing is permitted, too, in the Illinois River and Blue Creek.
No facilities or programs exist for camping, picnicking, horseback riding, water sports, winter activities or other recreational pursuits.
Bank fishing is allowed in the Illinois River and Blue Creek, where bass, bluegill, catfish and crappie may be caught along with other riverine species. Pull-off parking facilities for bank anglers are available in several locations, but there are no accommodations for launching or retrieving watercraft.
All but 140 of the area’s 1,140 acres are open to hunting. Timber occupies approximately 900 acres and open fields--some cultivated as wildlife food plots--comprise the remainder of the vegetative cover. Sunflower fields supply food for doves in the late summer and fall, while small grain plots help sustain a wide range of birds and other creatures during the winter. Hunting is allowed for dove, squirrel, deer, turkey, rabbit, quail, raccoon and waterfowl. Statewide seasons, shooting hours and bag limits apply. All hunters should check-in at site headquarters to be informed of site specific regulations.
Hikers will find an undeveloped trail ranging from a 0.25 to 1 miles in each of the property’s three designated geographic zones--south, central and north. In addition, a gravel-surfaced township road also serves as a trail as it angles through and around the site, forming the boundary line for one segment before coming to a dead-end at Blue Creek. No signs, toilets or other amenities are provided.
Winter Eagle Watching
After the fall/winter hunting seasons conclude, most of the site south of I-72 is closed for the benefit of bald eagles wintering on the river bluffs. Bald eagle viewing is allowed, but watchers are not allowed south of the highway bridges.