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History of Lake Shelbyville

Historical photo of Lake Shelbyville damLake Shelbyville and the surrounding area is filled with both geologic and human history. Native Americans lived in the area for thousands of years prior to European-Americans. The Kaskaskia River provided a good food source of fish, mussels and other aquatic creatures. They hunted large and small game in the wooded areas, harvested wild plants and fruits and cultivated crops. The use of fire proved effective for managing flora by burning parts of the prairies and woodlands regularly. They knew that animals like deer were attracted to recently burnt areas when new vegetation appeared.



As you explore Lake Shelbyville, you may be lucky enough to come across a Native American artifact. If you do, please enjoy it and reflect on how life was when the piece was being used or think about the human that used it. Please note that it is illegal to disturb or remove artifacts from federally managed property. When artifacts are moved, valuable information regarding its resting place can be lost in the process. Please report any artifact findings to the Lake Shelbyville Project Office.



Many changes occurred during the Post-European American settlement. The land was used for many things ranging from farming, timber and coal mining. However, the river had a mind of its own.  It created problems with flooding valuable farmland, villages, and infrastructure. In the 1940s, people organized and persuaded Congress to authorize and fund a series of dams and lakes to help manage the water flow of the Kaskaskia river.  This action was also intended to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with building a series of three dams (Lake Shelbyville, Carlyle Lake, and Kaskaskia Lock & Dam) These projects are still managed by them today.



If you have any information or photographs please email LakeShelbyville@usace.army.mil