Category Archives: Featured Business

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

Common Merganser by Michael Fitzgerald
map-buttonUpper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center – Savanna District

Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center
7071 Riverview Road
Thomson, Illinois 61285

Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge

Within the boundaries of Carroll County lies one of America’s greatest treasures, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The Refuge encompasses four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. Carroll County is very fortunate to have the Illinois District Office within our boundaries. Just five minutes south of Savanna on Riverview Road west of Highway 84, the Illinois District Office is located within Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center.


Our Story

In 2000, Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center opened its doors to promote environmental education and conservation of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Visitors travel from all over the world to view the Mississippi River and its wildlife. This provides us with many great opportunities to share our story and to encourage support for the Refuge System.

Conveniently located within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the facility is packed with interesting hands-on exhibits and provides a dramatic view of the world’s most majestic and celebrated river.

The Center sits on thirty-five acres of sand prairie that is home to the ornate box turtle, prickly pear cactus, and a diversity of other plants and animals. Visitors can walk or bike the Grand Illinois Trail, which traverses through the prairie and along Spring Lake. Photographers find many opportunities to get that special picture of a bald eagle, sandhill crane, trumpeter swan, or the prickly pear cactus. No matter what your interest, there’s something for you to see and do.


The Center is dedicated to the memory of Gary and David Ingersoll, young residents of Savanna who were stricken with muscular dystrophy. Although confined to wheelchairs most of their young lives, the two overcame day-to-day challenges and attended college, where they demonstrated their mutual interest in natural resource conservation. Tragically, both young men died of the disease before the age of twenty-two. The center was named in their honor. Toaday, it continues to promote their ideals of environmental education and conservation of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Hours are 8:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. Monday through Friday. The Center is closed on all federal holidays. Starting in mid May through September, the Center is open on Saturdays from 9:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.

The Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge “Friend’s Group” operates a bookstore within Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center. It’s filled with an excellent selection of children’s books, field guides, and unique gifts. If you know one of those “hard to buy for” nature enthusiasts, you’ll find that perfect gift here. All proceeds support various refuge programs.

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Story

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, established for fish, wildlife, plants, and as a breeding place for migratory birds, owes its existence to the avid fisherman, founder and leader of the Izaak Walton League, Will Dilg. By 1922, Dilg had spent nearly two decades fishing and enjoying the Upper Mississippi River. In the summer of 1923, he learned of a plan to drain a large portion of the river backwaters and came up with an ambitious solution to the drainage scheme: turn the entire stretch of river into a federal refuge.


Will Dilg

Remarkably, one year later, due to Dilg’s determination, Congress passed the Upper Mississippi River Wild Life and Fish Refuge Act on June 7, 1924. The act authorized the acquisition of land for a refuge between Rock Island, Illinois and Wabasha, Minnesota. The Refuge name was changed administratively to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in 1983. The 261 mile refuge is the longest contiguous river refuge in the continental U.S. This refuge begins at the confluence of the Chippewa River near Wabasha, Minnesota, and ends near Princeton, Iowa. The refuge lies within four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.

The river was free-flowing until a series of locks and dams were constructed in the 1930’s by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Over half of the lands managed by the refuge are owned by the Corps. Today, nearly 240,000 acres of wooded islands, marshes, and backwaters comprise the Upper Mississippi Refuge. The refuge provides migratory habitat for a large percentage of the migratory birds in the Mississippi Flyway. Tundra swans and canvasback ducks use the refuge as a resting and feeding area in the spring and fall. From the beginning, the refuge has been a place for visitors to renew themselves. A quiet trip to the backwaters, camping on an island, fishing a favorite spot, and waterfowl hunting are traditional uses that have continued for over eighty years.

The National Wildlife Refuge System


Paul Kroegel was hired as the first national wildlife refuge manager. He was paid $1 a month by the Florida Audubon Society, as Congress had not set aside funds for this executively created refuge.

One hundred and eleven years ago, Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on Florida’s Pelican Island, ensuring the island’s birds would survive plume hunters and other profiteers. He went on to establish more than fifty wildlife refuges in a network of protected lands and waters that has become a landmark international conservation model.

The National Wildlife Refuge System presently encompasses 562 refuge units, 38 wetland management districts, and more than 150 million protected acres. It stretches from Alaska to the Caribbean and west from Maine to islands in the remote Pacific Ocean.

This network is dedicated to the protection of vital wildlife habitat and efforts to restore at-risk species. Examples include the return of the bald eagle and the brown pelican, both of which are no longer on the Endangered Species List, as well as our work with other iconic wildlife such as caribou, bison, elk and puffins. Refuges offer the American public a chance to see all these animals, not behind bars in a zoo, but roaming free in their natural environment.

national-wildlife-refuge-system-mapRefuges help our communities by cleaning the air and the water we depend on for human health. By conserving and restoring these natural landscapes, they also help to prevent or minimize disasters such as flooding, drought and wildfires.

Forty-seven million people visit refuges each year. Some come to see and experience undeveloped landscapes or to learn about nature and conservation. Others come to take part in the many available outdoor recreational opportunities.

In the process, refuges stimulate local economies, supporting thousands of private sector jobs, and generate billions of dollars in commercial activity. Our recent Banking on Nature report reveals refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 jobs.

Our national wildlife refuges are home to more than 700 types of birds, 220 varieties of mammals, 250 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, 1,000 species of fish, countless invertebrates, and plants. They provide havens for 280 endangered species ranging from the Florida panther to the polar bear.

Savanna Marketplace

map-buttonSavanna Marketplace
321 Main Street
Savanna, Illinois 61074

Proprietors: Chris Lain and Jube Manderico.

We are not originally from Carroll County. We most recently lived in Chicago, Illinois. We rented a Cabin at the Nest at Palisades for New Years Eve 2013. We found Carroll County because we wanted a getaway that was close enough for a long weekend, but far enough to be a getaway. We hiked the Palisades, walked a long Main Street in Savanna, and drove the beautiful country roads of Carroll County. We were here for four days and fell in love with the area.

Back in Chicago, we searched for real-estate online and returned to Savanna the next weekend to look at homes. We made an offer that Monday and closed the sale of our new weekend home on February 1st. We came to Savanna on the weekends for awhile and decided to move here full time in June of 2013.

We love Carroll County because it doesn’t look like another place in Illinois. The rolling hills and the bluffs are so beautiful. The historic downtown areas are so quaint and full of history. However, the people of Carroll County are what we love most. Everyone is so friendly and willing to help their neighbor here.

This is our first retail store. We’d always wanted to open our own business and had extensive retail experience. After moving to Savanna, we saw an opportunity to open a store on Main Street. We wanted to do something to foster creativity and help build the economy in Savanna and Carroll County. Our solution was to open a store that carried items made by local artist and artisans. Savanna Marketplace opened on October 5th of 2013 with 34 vendors. In just 3 months, we have grown to include over 80 vendors. Most of whom are local to Carroll County.

We carry a wide assortment of locally crafted items, such as art, photography, ceramics, knits, jewelry, wood working, home decor, pet items, clothing, and much much more. We have a large selection of all natural health and beauty products, including a full line of Savanna Marketplace branded products such as hemp soaps, bath salts, all natural lotions, soy candles, and a full line of aroma therapy candles. All of which are produced right here in Savanna.

We carry an array of “Savanna Illinois” t-shirts and hoodies. They are manufactured in the United States and all our printing is done in Mount Carroll, Illinois. We feature Old Savanna post cards and books chronicling the history of Carroll County. We also have a full coffee and espresso bar, serving Round House Coffee that is roasted in Galena (as local as we could get) and branded exclusively for Savanna Marketplace.

We host many classes and events. We offer gluten-free baked goods every other weekend. We stock lots of candy and other sweets that are all locally made. We also offer Design services as well.

Our store was built in 1906 and still features the original tin ceiling. The soda fountain was added in the 1920’s and remains here today. We have turned it into a coffee and espresso bar. Spring, summer, and fall, you can enjoy a cup of our gourmet coffee in our courtyard or on the deck overlooking the Mississippi River. We are definitely unique. We have something for everyone and try to appeal to a broad market of both local residents and tourists passing through Savanna.

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Land of Oz Dolls

map-buttonLand of Oz Dolls
1723 Portland Avenue
Savanna, Illinois 61074

Proprietor: Connie Zink.

World renowned artist, Connie Zink, produces museum quality antique reproduction and modern porcelain dolls for customers all over the world. The studio offers beautiful doll displays and a vast array of supplies for doll makers. In 1997, Connie was awarded the coveted “Millie” at an international competition in Oneonta, New York.

Land of Oz Dolls was founded January of 1979 in Savanna, Illinois by Connie Zink. After having signed up for a porcelain doll class that was advertised in a local newspaper, Connie had no idea she had embarked onto a life-long journey into the art of porcelain doll-making.

Now 35 years and several thousand dolls later, Connie is still producing porcelain dolls for her customers all over the world. She has exhibited her dolls at shows across the country. Her husband, Dennis, pours the greenware for the approximate 1,000 plus different antique reproduction and modern dolls that Land of Oz Dolls offers to its customers.

Their studio in Savanna, along with its beautiful doll displays, also offers a vast array of soft-fired greenware, porcelain slip, brushes, wigs, eyes, shoes, socks, and doll stands for the doll-maker. Land of Oz Dolls carries their own line of china paints for antique reproduction and modern dolls. A complete selection of supplies makes Land of Oz Dolls, a one-stop doll making shop. Connie also teaches online classes and seminars on porcelain doll making.

When Connie is not working in her studio, she is an active gardener and enjoys working in her many flower gardens at her home and studio in Savanna. Connie was awarded the State of Illinois “Outstanding Master Gardener” award by the University of Illinois Extension Service in 2007. Connie also enjoys bird-watching and nature photography and is the current president of Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge. Connie conducts eight passenger golf cart and van tours of Spring Lake and Lost Mound Unit (old Savanna Army Depot) through the Stewards “Friends” group for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

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