The Wetlands Center was completed in November 2004, and is a high-quality destination point that fosters natural resources appreciation and education, while interpreting the unique natural and cultural history of the Cache River Wetlands. Located south of Whitehill on Illinois Route 37, the center is named for Henry N. Barkhausen, who served as Director for the Illinois Department of Conservation from 1970-73 and for 18 years, served as Secretary of the Citizens Committee to Save the Cache River. He worked to encourage government agencies, organizations and residents to protect and restore the natural character of the Cache Wetlands.
The Cache River basin is home to one of this state's most biologically diverse areas. A good starting place for visitors is the Barkhausen Wetland Center in Cypress which gives an overview of the region, nearby sights, and activities available.
The Cache River Wetlands Center, owned and operated by Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is supported by the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and The Nature Conservancy. Here, visitors may acquire information on agency partners, recreation opportunities, and habitat restoration work currently underway. Visitors are invited to explore the unique cultural and natural history of the Cache River watershed along a timeline in the exhibits. This timeline is full of fascinating artifact exhibits, has a video screen with five perspectives of the Cache watershed, and audio sticks with local oral history. A twelve-minute orientation video gives a good overview of the cultural and natural history of the watershed, explaining the unique biodiversity of the flora and fauna that live here. Visitors may acquaint themselves with the local flora and fauna through an interactive diorama of a wetland, two interactive touch screens featuring images of the Cache and migratory birds, state champion tree information, and changing landscape displays.
The Center grounds offer a 2,600 foot handicap accessible hiking trail which has a wildlife viewing mound overlooking a reestablished wetland along the old bed of Cypress Creek. Animals, their tracks, and other signs are prevalent in this habitat. Your explorations of the Cache River Wetlands Center will help the local natural areas seem more alive. Please, ask the knowledgeable Cache River or other Joint Venture staff for information on hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, and canoeing opportunities in the area!
The Cache River Wetlands Center is also the beginning or the terminus of a bike ride or walk on the Tunnel Hill State Trail, which extends 48 miles to Harrisburg, Illinois, and is part of the Rails to Trails system. A trip to the Tunnel Hill office/visitors center will add color to your biking experience with the culture, history, and the distant sound of a train whistle as you bike over the changing landscape with swamps, upland hills, train trestles, and a tunnel built in 1872.