Forested river hills and Mississippi River frontage make this Perry County area a must for river fishing, hunting, hiking, and bird-watching.
Seventy-Six Conservation Area has a rich history. In the mid-1800s, a riverboat pilot named John Wilkinson, who established a landing selling wood to riverboat traffic, developed the area along this stretch of the Mississippi River. No one knows why Wilkinson named his landing Seventy-Six, but many have speculated. His first land purchase in the area was 76 acres. He also had family in Alton, Illinois, which was 76 river landings from Seventy Six. Locals say he sank his boat there on his 76th voyage (though there is no official record of it). The area grew over the next generation to include a saloon, post office, general store, and an extensive fruit orchard. But as the river and rail became less crucial ways of travel, the town faded way. A few generations later, the Klobe family managed the property for agriculture and conservation practices in the 1980s. With help from longtime Department Forester Rick Kammler, the Klobes developed a sustainable forest management plan that is still used today. The Department purchased the area’s 818 acres in 1990.
Today on Seventy-Six, visitors can see 100-foot cottonwood trees where the general store once stood. Over a mile of Mississippi River frontage offers a boat ramp, river frontage for fishing, and a primitive campground. A good way to explore the hills and hollows of the area is to walk the Wilkinson Trail. This 3-mile loop meanders through mixed hardwood forest, woodlands, and open fields. The fields on the ridges are managed for a diversity of habitat, offering wildlife-viewing opportunities and beautiful vistas of the river valley. Managers use tree thinning and prescribed burns on woodlands to increase the diversity of plants for wildlife. The area also features karst topography, a kind of landscape formed by water dissolving underground limestone or dolomite. Resulting sinkholes, sinkhole ponds, and springs offer unique habitat for wildlife.
The majority of the area is composed of well-drained, deep-loam forest across steep river hills. Here you will see mixed hardwood stands of yellow poplar, sugar maple, a variety of oaks and hickories, walnut, Kentucky coffee tree, black cherry, white ash, and basswood.
These areas also have a diversity of wildflowers in the early spring that give way to a dense understory of pawpaw and spicebush in the summer. Birding is great on this area, especially during migration as warblers and other migratory birds use the forest along the river. Seventy-Six is an excellent representation of the Mississippi River hills of east Perry County and a great conservation area to visit for hiking, birding, hunting, fishing, and river access.
—Mike Keeley, area manager
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler