Like many other such areas, the Wolf Creek/Eagle Creek sites are perfect examples of the potential benefits of natural resource management. As a means of flood control, water supply and downstream water quality control, the Flood Control Act of 1958 authorized the Shelbyville Reservoirs Project, which involved construction of a dam and creation of a lake. These mundane necessities, however, would also allow for the actual conservation of fish and wildlife and the development of areas for all the recreational uses outlined above.
It was a monumental undertaking. Before actual work on the dam at Shelbyville could begin, several old mines in the area had to be completely relocated, two gas and oil pipelines and roads rerouted, the old Shelby Power Plant demolished and land cleared and leveled on the west side of the channel which hugs the bluff to the east of the river bottom. Construction of this $56 million project began in May of 1963.
The dam itself is an earthen embankment towering 110 feet above the original stream bed. It’s 3,025 feet long with a reinforced concrete, gate-controlled spillway to manipulate water level and manage the 25,300 acres of its flood control pool.
Most of this work was done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the land is now managed by the State of Illinois on a long-term lease from the federal government which began in 1968. By 1972, the area was open to the public and provided primitive camping facilities. In the years since then, the state has purchased additional surrounding lands and made extensive improvements in campgrounds, boat launches, day-use areas and hiking trails that make this a beautiful, well-tended and well-managed natural retreat in which to relax.