For several decades the residents of Jasper County worked for a state park, assisted and encouraged by a former resident and conservationist, Sam Parr. In 1960, 72 acres of land approximately 3 miles northeast of Newton were acquired by the Department of Natural Resources and the Jasper County Conservation Area became a reality. Additional acquisitions have brought the total acreage to 1,180, including a 183-acre lake.
After the death of Sam Parr in 1966, the General Assembly changed the name from Jasper County to Sam Parr. The site was formally dedicated on May 12, 1972.
As in most of Illinois, the early inhabitants of this area were Native Americans. For nearly 1,000 years they fished and lived along the Embarrass River and hunted in nearby woodlands, including what is now Sam Parr State Fish and Wildlife Area.
The 1770s brought the French and the westward expansion of the American colonists, who pushed the Native Americans westward into Illinois in search for new lands. The Piankashaw finally settled in this area and they lived in comparative peace with the French who lived with them, adapting many of their ways. General Harrison, from Vincennes, Indiana, negotiated a treaty with the Piankashaws in 1812, whereby they gave up nearly one million acres of land to the United States government, including what is now Jasper county. Att he time about 140 Piankashaw Indians remained in the area.
The dam built in 1971 impounds a 183-acre lake, which has a maximum depth of 28 feet and 9 miles of shoreline. Nestled in a rolling, timbered area the lake attracts nesting wood ducks and contains largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, crappie, channel catfish and bullhead. Two launching ramps are located on the west side of the lake.