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THE GREAT RIVERS PARTNERSHIP brings together diverse stakeholders and best science to work toward sustainable management and development of the world’s most critical river systems.

 Mackinaw River

Mackinaw River watershed - © Timoty T. Lindenbaum
Project Size: The Mackinaw River watershed is a 740,000-acre tributary of the Illinois River and contains some of the most productive agricultural land in the United States. The river begins near Sibley, Illinois, in Ford County. Project sites operated by The Nature Conservancy are located in McLean County, where the river provides drainage to part of the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area. These headwater project areas are primarily agricultural, with 80-93% of the land used for corn and soybean production. The Mackinaw River continues west through Woodford and Tazewell counties before flowing into the Illinois River just south of Pekin, Ill.
Conservation Significance: The Mackinaw River maintains some of the highest quality streams in the state and provides habitat for 60-70 native fish species and 25-30 mussels.
  • Improve hydrology and water quality for mussels, fishes and people who depend on the river for water supply and recreation.
  • Reduce nutrient export from the Mackinaw River to downstream river systems.
  • Develop a model for hydrologic and water quality improvements that is economically viable, compatible with agricultural production, and scalable across the Upper Mississippi River Basin.
  • Continue to implement and measure the effectiveness of constructed wetlands to reduce nutrient pollution at the farm level through demonstrations at the Franklin Research and Demonstration Farm. Demonstrate this integrated farm-scape to agriculture producers, educators, researchers, state agencies, as well as media, local-, state- and federal-elected officials.
  • Inform the city of Bloomington, Ill., and influence drinking water quality for over 80,000 residents by integrating research, multiple conservation programs, government agencies, university researchers and NGOs to deploy constructed wetlands and increase adaptive nutrient management across reasonably large watersheds to reduce nutrient pollution.
  • Create a transferable model with wide applicability to tile-drainage agricultural watersheds that demonstrates and documents all aspects of applying constructed wetlands at the watershed scaleincluding identification of appropriate sites, strategic outreach methods to engage landowners, incentive programs, wetland engineering, design and installation, and monitoring of water quality, hydrology and biodiversity improvements.

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Video: Franklin Demonstration Farm

From constructed wetlands to cover crops, this five-minute video explores how Nature Conservancy staff at Mackinaw's Franklin Demonstration Farm are finding innovative ways to clean our water. 

Critical Lessons from Working with Private Landowners (1.2MB, pdf)

Take an in-depth look at the Mackinaw watershed and how practitioners are using 'Best Management Practices' and targeted outreach to improve water quality and cultivate relationships with local farmers.