Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area is located in a part of Illinois that was a vast, shallow sea millions of years ago. Two glaciers covered this part of Illinois, the last being the Wisconsinian Glacier, which shaped the land as we know it today.
The state park is located on the southern edge of what once was the Great Willow Swamp, a marsh area covering the low-lying areas between the Mississippi, Rock and Green rivers, and is believed to have contained one of the most concentrated and varied wildlife populations in the central part of North America.
Attracting large numbers of both market and sport hunters, the area was considered a sportsman's paradise. The marsh eventually was drained for agricultural purposes.
The abundance of wild game and furbearing animals was what attracted Native Americans -- the area's first inhabitants -- to this part of Illinois. Although mound-building tribes were the first Native Americans to settle this part of the state, tribes of Sauk, Fox, Winnebago, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Kaskaskia, Peoria and Piankashaw later established villages in the area.
Winnebago Indians used the Sauk Trail and regularly camped at or near the park. The Sauk tribe moved from Wisconsin to the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi rivers and joined the Fox Indians to form a confederation. These tribes frequently sent hunting parties to this part of the marsh.
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