Chouteau Island

Chouteau Island
A Confluence Attraction

Contact
Dave Eustis, Southwestern Illinois Resource Conservation & Development, Inc. (SWIRCD), (618) 566-4451

Participating Confluence Organizations
Metro-East Park & Recreation District
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
City of Madison IL
SWIRCD
The Trust for Public Land
Trailnet
US Army Corps of Engineers

Location
Popular name for three adjacent islands: Chouteau, Gabaret and Mosenthein

Madison County IL, one mile west of Granite City. The islands lie between the Mississippi River’s main channel and the Chain of Rocks Canal, bordering seven miles of the Illinois shoreline. More than 70% of the islands are owned by public agencies (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and City of Madison); IDNR and Corps lands are accessible to the public and are marked accordingly.

Directions
(By car) From I-270, take Illinois Route 3 south to Chain of Rocks Road (the first stop light south of I-270). Follow road across Chain of Rocks Canal Bridge. Roadside parking is available at the entrance to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.
(By bike) From Missouri, bicycle access is via the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge on Riverview Boulevard, just south of theI-270 bridge (see Bridge entry on this website). Illinois access is from the MCT Confluence Trail, also described on this website. A short distance north of the Chain of Rocks Canal Bridge, take the road spur heading east from the Trail. Directional signage is now underway to mark this spot.

*Corps of Engineers Dam 27 Access Area Closure Extended*
The US Army Corps of Engineers, Rivers Project Office, extends closure of Dam 27 (Low Water Dam) Access on Chouteau Island in Pool 27. Weather has delayed scheduled improvements and the area will remain closed through February 9, 2007. To ensure public safety the area will be closed to all visitors. Visitors will not be allowed to drive, bike, or walk into the area during the closure.

For more information please contact the Rivers Project Office at 636/899-2600.

History
The islands as we know them today were created after World War II through the development of the Chain of Rocks Canal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps’ purpose was to foster river commerce by diverting barges and other large vessels around the hazardous, natural “chain of rocks” across the river, best viewed from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge just north of that point. A delightful side effect was the creation of a more natural, highly scenic stretch of river for roughly seven miles along the islands’ outer shores.

Chouteau and its sister islands were developed by private landowners for agriculture, timbering, water treatment and waste management, in addition to other relatively passive uses. The islands are uninhabited and, since the Great Flood of 1993, a number of landowners have chosen to sell or donate their properties to government agencies for public use in perpetuity. Of the islands’ total 5,500 acres, 78% is now in public ownership: all of Mosenthein (1,000 acres), most of Gabaret (1,000 of its 1,300 acres) and roughly one-half of Chouteau, primarily the southern section.

Chouteau Island is the largest conservation/recreation effort of its kind in Southwestern Illinois since the creation of Pere Marquette State Park (8,000 acres) in Grafton in 1932.

Current Features
A multi-use gravel trail serving hikers, bikers and equestrians is located along the east levee on Chouteau Island.

All public lands on the islands are recommended for birding. In particular, Chouteau’s bottomland forests and sloughs provide habitat for numerous waterfowl species, herons, egrets and wintering bald eagles.

The most accessible fishing spot on Chouteau Island is just south of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. As you approach the bridge on Chain of Rocks Road, take the (unmarked) south spur down to the river. Parking is available.

Mosenthein Island is the least developed and is accessible only by boat. There are no boat launch facilities on Chouteau, but a ramp is located nearby, across the Mississippi at North Riverfront Park (see entry for St. Louis Riverfront Trail on this website).

Hunting and trapping are permitted on IDNR and Corps land; for locations and regulations see http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/hunter_fact_sheet/R4hfs/hrl_corps.htm.

Future Plans
The Chouteau Island Master Plan, completed and accepted in 2002, reflects a comprehensive, broad-based vision for the islands, developed with significant community input. A team of 11 non-profit and government agencies are working together to realize these and other elements of the plan over the next decade:

  • more than 2,200 acres of aquatic, wetland, forest and prairie habitats will be restored. These provide critical support year-round for many plant and animal species, as well as temporary host sites for the hundreds of thousands of land and water birds migrating through the Mississippi Flyway each spring and fall;
  • 45 miles of multi-use trails will be developed for hiking, biking and horseback riding;
  • areas for fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, picnicking and primitive camping will be developed or enhanced;
  • a centrally located Visitor Center will be constructed to provide orientation, amenities and environmental education programs for Chouteau Island and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Major Funders
The Grand Victoria Foundation
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
The McKnight Foundation
Monsanto Fund
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

For more information about Chouteau Island, see
http://www.swircd.org
For information about nearby recreation opportunities, see
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/ilstate.htm (Frank Holten State Recreation Area; Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area)