Putnam County

Hennepin & Hopper Lakes

Hennepin-Hopper, as it’s known, is one of Illinois premier birding locations. This restored wetland has some of the best quality cattail marshes in northern Illinois.

There are 3 primary birding spots here:

The boat launch
The boat launch area offers a good vantage point to scope the marsh. Breeding birds here include Yellow-headed Blackbird, Common Gallinule, Least Bittern, American Bittern, Swamp Sparrow, Marsh Wren and other expected marsh species, such as Sora and Virginia Rail. King Rails were calling here in May/June of 2011. Bald Eagle is frequently seen here. In the woods to the south, Red-headed Woodpecker and Carolina Wren are resident. In March and April, thousands of waterfowl congregate here, and White-fronted Goose and Cackling Goose are usually present.

The tower 
The tower offers an elevated overview of the marshes, and many of the same birds. Looking north, one can often spot Northern Harrier, and Sedge Wren nests in the prairie around the tower.

Urnikis Rd.
Another access point, and usually the best for Yellow-headed Blackbird. If the water is low, the gravel trail can be walked for quite a distance through the marsh and out into the prairie to the west. Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows breed here, but the trail is most often under more than 2 feet of water. To access this spot turn west off Rte. 26 at Urnikis Rd. (780E). This is about 1/2 mile north of the main entrance road (795E). Note that there is only room to pull in one or two cars and that the open area that looks like a small parking lot, on the left as you pull in, is private property.

The marshes at Hennepin-Hopper have produced a lot of rare birds including Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Great-tailed Grackle, Ross’ Goose, White-faced Ibis, Black-necked Stilt and Hudsonian Godwit.

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