Hazel & Bill Rutherford Wildlife Prairie State Park

Quick Facts

Hazel & Bill Rutherford Wildlife Prairie State Park


(309) 676-0998

Map Directions

Things To Do


Wildlife Prairie Park began in the late 1960s when the Forest Park Foundation established a working relationship with the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo to use some Foundation land as an endangered species breeding farm and rest area. The idea was abandoned when the Brookfield Zoo became involved in a major renovation and management change.

The plan was then to use the land to create a park where the animals could live some-what freely. Among others, Marlin Perkins agreed with the idea that it be only for native Illinois animals. Very few parks had been built around similar themes, wintering the animals would be easier and it would better portray Illinois' natural history.

From that point on, the Park began to evolve into what it is today. Extensive construction work was begun. As often as possible, recycled materials were used to reduce costs and to save resources as much as possible. Some of the recycled materials used in the building of the Park are the bricks in the patio near the Visitor Center and at the Train Depot, the old whiskey barrels used as refuse containers, the re-sawn timbers in the buildings and the many telephone poles used in the gates and bridges throughout the Park. Many of the bridges and habitats had to be built totally by hand to protect the natural foliage.

Throughout its construction, the Park has had three purposes: these are to conserve; to educate about conservation, wildlife and many other resources; and to provide a place where this can be accomplished while having fun. The Park continues to work toward these goals. The Park opened for the first time in the fall of 1978 for six weeks. On September 5, 2000 William Rutherford Jr. presented the deed to Wildlife Prairie State Park to Governor George Ryan. Shortly thereafter, Wildlife Prairie Park became

Map of Hazel & Bill Rutherford Wildlife Prairie (IL)

Latitude, Longitude: 40.733300, -89.735650



  • Boating

    Please contact park services for more information.

  • Camping

    Spend a night in the wild! The overnight lodging is as unique as the park itself. There are many options that will enhance your getaway. All of the lodging guests have access to the recreation room and extended fishing hours. Each unit has indoor plumbing and several have kitchenette facilities. Charcoal & ice are available for purchase. Enjoy a unique overnight stay at Wildlife Prairie State Park in "Cabin on the Hill, Cottages by the Lake, Train Cabooses, or Prairie Stables".

  • Climbing

    Please contact park services for more information.

  • Fishing

    Once stripmined for its coal, the Park boasts woodlands, grasslands and some impressive bodies of water. Four of the lakes are fishable! General admission rates apply. A valid Illinois fishing license is required for those 16 years of age and older. Licenses are available at the Ticket Gate. Anglers will enter and exit the park like all other visitors. A general admission fee is charged at the main gate or yearly membership privileges are applicable. Legal fishing hours end one hour before the park closes each day. Overnight visitors can catch fish throughout their stay, however, no boat fishing will be permitted from sunset to sunrise. An Illinois fishing license is required for ages 16 and up. Resident and non-resident fishing licenses are available on site.

  • Hiking

    There are 10 miles of hiking trails at Wildlife State Park. Take a leisurely hike through Merrill Woods or tackle the tough terrain of the Floodplain Hiking Trail.

  • Historic Sites

    Great Educational Center with activities for all ages.

  • Hunting

    Please contact park services for more information.

  • Picnicking

    Please contact park services for more information.

  • RVing

    Please contact park services for more information.

  • Water Sports

    Please contact park services for more information.



Wildlife Prairie State Park is located 10 miles west of downtown Peoria, IL. From I-74, take exit 82, turn south and drive straight ahead 3 miles.

Phone Numbers


(309) 676-0998

Campground reservations

(309) 676-0998