Serious efforts to protect the Cache River began in the early 1980s as a reaction to plans to drain the remaining swamps. Residents took up the cause, and decisions were made to preserve the area, said Laura Keefer of the Illinois State Water Survey. The state water survey office became involved to help document the area.
But it wouldn't have happened without local involvement, Keefer said. "Local people have a lot to be proud of. If it wasn't for them from the very beginning, this wouldn't have happened."
The final chapter on the Cache River will involve restoring the river to its original channel. How and when to do so hasn't been debated or planned, said Don Hankla, chairman of Friends of the Cache.
The upper and lower stretches of the Cache were severed in 1915 when a channel was dug to the Ohio River. Called the Post Creek cutoff, discussions will determine how and if it should be changed or eliminated, Hankla said.
But in the meantime Hankla, a former official of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, appreciates the cooperative effort in place to protect and enhance the Cache.
"Government is not taking anything away from anybody," he said. "We are giving the landowners a way to improve their soil."
Changing the Post Creek cutoff would be a good idea if done properly, Hankla said. "That's the end game, but there are lots of benefits that will be gained whether or not that will actually be done."
-- Rudi Keller