River Uses

Illinois’ rivers and streams are essential for drinking water, recreation, and wildlife.

Drinking Water

Most Illinois residents get their drinking water from large scale municipal water systems that rely on surface water sources such as the surface water of local rivers or that of dammed rivers which form reservoirs. However, many Illinois residents also depend on ground water sources such as aquifers (e.g. Mahomet Aquifer that serves much of east central Illinois) or private wells.

In either case, we enjoy some of the cleanest drinking water supplies in the world.

You can learn more about your local drinking water resources and how they are regulated by visiting the U.S. EPA’s website for drinking water.

Family Activities

Much of Illinois landscape may be row crops, but if you’re looking for some outdoor family fun there may be more opportunities than you realize.
Illinois has numerous beautiful wildlife areas and recreational opportunities.

For more information on family activities, visit our Get Outside section.



Bald Eagle Soaring above Mississippi River

Illinois is home to an amazing array of wildlife from river bottom to tree top and sky. The following links connect you to valuable resources and tools you can use to learn more about the wildlife Illinois has for you to enjoy.



Visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ fish guide for a comprehensive list (with photos) of Illinois’ native fishes.


Visit www.illinoisbirds.org for tons of information on the birds of Illinois.

Other Animals

For information on other types of animals that currently live and used to live in Illinois explore the University of Illinois Extension website.

Invasive species in Illinois

With changes in land use, increases in interaction between different ecosystems and habitats and human interference comes increase threats to our valuable wildlife populations. Among the top of the list of these threats are non-native or invasive species. These species compete with our natural or native plants and animals for water, food, and habitat.

For more information on invasive species in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources invasives website where you can look at a photo gallery of the species that are a threat in Illinois.

Two Species on the Invasive Species Watchlist

Bighead Carp

Like many invasive species, bighead carp were originally brought to the U.S. with good intentions in mind. However, this carp species has proven again that there are consequences to introducing an exotic species into an ecosystem. With high flooding in the Midwest in 1993, some carp escaped stocking ponds and entered the Mississippi River. Since that time, bighead carp have spread through the Mississippi into conjoining rivers such as the Illinois, and recently the Missouri.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has compiled a Asian Carp.

Northern Snakehead

The snakehead is a predacious fish brought to North America from Asia. Snakeheads are aggressive predators known to feed on a variety of species, occasionally including mammals. The snakehead feeds high on the food chain, and is therefore a danger to many of the native game fishes of North America. They are a major concern because of their ability to reduce gamefish populations, as well as spread to new habitat. Snakeheads are capable of surviving in bodies of water with low levels of dissolved oxygen, and due to a primitive lung, they can travel over land to reach bodies of water. They have been known to survive up to three or four days out of water. Snakehead adults usually have a dark brown body with large black blotches. Snakeheads can reach more than1 meter in length and 15 pounds.

The snakehead should not be confused with the bowfin, a native species to Illinois.

The bowfin is the only remaining fish of the Amiidae family, a group originating over 100 million years ago. The bowfin is a very important species in controlling the populations of many small fish species. The bowfin is often confused for the snakehead, due to their close physical resemblance. Distinctive qualities of the bowfin include a large flattened head with tube-like nostrils, long sharp teeth, and a long spineless dorsal fin, extending over the majority itsâ body. The bowfinâs long body is covered with olive colored scales with occasional slight variations in color.

Another distinctive feature between the bowfin and snakehead is the anal fin on the two species. On the snakehead, the anal fin is noticeable longer, generally covering about half the length of the body. The bowfinâs anal fin is much shorter, usually only a few inches, or approximately one eighth of the fishes total body length. Also, the pelvic fin of the bowfin is positioned at mid-body while the pelvic fin on the snakehead is further back. The snakehead also has a narrow, pointed head, while the bowfinsâ head is larger and recedes from the body at a slighter angle. As the name implies, the snakeheadâs small head resembles that of a serpent.

You can view a map of where INHS has collected the bowfin.

Exotic species of many types pose threats to the ecological well being of native species and their habitats when introduced into ecosystems.

When either the bighead carp or the snakehead is encountered, it is recommended that their presence be reported to wildlife officials, and they are not released back into the habitat they were found in.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources can be reached at (217) 782-6302.