Illinois Aquathlon, Gravel Grinder Tri & Panther Prowl Events

Tri Harder/Tri Smarter Big News for 2019

Attention Endurance Athletes,

After 13 years of asking we have been given access to an amazing venue in Central Illinois for Endurance Sports, the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area

Plans are underway for the Illinois Aquathlon at Drake Lake, the Cougar Sprint and Wildcat Olympic Triathlons at Prairie Lake and the Panther Prowl around Prairie Lake.

The July 13th Illinois Aquathlon will offer a 500 yard open water swim then a 2 mile trail run around the lake, a 1.2 mile swim and 5 mile run and a 2.4 mile swim and 10 mile run.

Aquathlons are an emerging sport under USAT with over 100 events annually combining a swim and run with no bike, but this is the First in Central Illinois.

While all are encouraged to compete or complete the Aquathlon you can also use this event as an opportunity to get some open water swimming with lifeguards and other amenities on site for your comfort and safety.

The September 7th event is in discussion and may include the Cougar Sprint with a 500 yard open water swim in Prairie Lake, a 12 mile bike thru the site and a 3.1 mile run on the paved bike trail that cuts across the site offering great views of this natural gem.

On that same day the Wildcat Olympic offers a .9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike and 6.2 mile run thru and across the site.

However, based on recent trends and chats with industry leaders and prophets we have been encouraged to make the 7th a Gravel Grinder Triathlon to offer something different and unique.

This emerging format offers a lake swim, then a non-paved road bike and a run on the trails around the lakes.   The appeal of these events is the chance to ride a fatter tire road bike, or mountain bike on gravel roads with the occasional paved connector road thrown in for course continuity.

We are reviewing the site and area to determine if a suitable bike course can be offered and hope to have a final decision soon on either a road Sprint and Olympic or a Gravel Sprint and maybe an Olympic.

Regardless of format trust us, this venue is perfect for Endurance sports.

On September 28th the Inaugural Panther Prowl Ultra will offer trail runners a new mecca for running in nature or as we refer to it as Shinrin-yoku while running 17 or 34 miles around Prairie Lake. The loop will take runners through the varied terrain and topography of Panther Creek and you may forget your in Central Illinois.

As mentioned these events are in development but we have approval and wanted to let everyone know about more Endurance Sport opportunities so you can plan your season.

Please note while Panther Creek is considered a premier venue for hunting and fishing there will be no hunting taking place around our venues on the above dates so you will be safe and blaze orange is not needed.

For those taking the Glass Half Full Tri Challenge the Illinois Aquathlon makes the perfect chance to practice your open water swims and we are working with partners in the Bloomington area to offer open water swims before the June 15th Illinois Half. All Stovepipe, Railsplitter and other race triathletes can take advantage of the swims as they develop.

More details and On Line Registration will open soon at or

Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Panther Creek, is it’s known locally, is One of Illinois’ largest public access areas, Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (JEPC) in central Illinois is a mosaic of mature forest land, agricultural land, grassland and rare hill prairie that is home to a rich assortment of wildlife.

The site, including the former Panther Creek Conservation Area, now totals 16,550 acres.  Formerly known as Site M, it was acquired by the State of Illinois from Commonwealth Edison after the company abandoned plans for a coal-fired power plant and cooling lake in Cass County.  Since 1993, IDNR has developed the site for conservation and recreation, adding hundreds of acres of native and cool season grasses, habitat strips and trees on former pasture, idling hundreds of other acres allowed to move towards forest through natural succession.

JEPC features hunting for deer, wild turkey and dove, upland species (pheasant, quail, woodcock, snipe and rabbit), furbearers (raccoon, opossum, red fox, gray fox, striped skunk and coyote) and squirrels.

Sport fishing opportunities are available at Gridley Lake (25 acres opened 1998), Prairie Lake (210 acres, opened 2002) and Drake Lake (35 acres opened in 2003). Several ponds within the site also have been renovated. Stream fishes include largemouth bass, bluegill and green sunfish, along with shiners, chubs and minnows, with muskie stocked in Prairie Lake. Northern pike have been added to Gridley Lake, which is also stocked for spring and fall trout fishing seasons.

The site has 24 miles of mountain bike trails, a three-mile hiking/jogging trail, 26 miles of equestrian trails, and extensive camping opportunities, including the Prairie Lake campground with 84 campsites and nine cabins available, along with a dedicated equestrian campground with 51 electric campsites.  Make campsite reservations at

Approximate Distances according to Mapquest

Springfield to Panther Creek 41 minutes, 32 miles

Bloomington to Panther Creek 1:29, 83 miles

Chicago to Panther Creek 3:56, 218 miles

Peoria to Panther Creek 1:32, 72 miles

St. Louis to Panther Creek 2:09, 133 miles


We will update websites and posts as they develop but please plan on entering one of the above events so we can prove to the state that Panther Creek can be used for Endurance Sports for years to come.

All events are fund-raisers for the site and the local teams, groups and rescue personnel that keep you safe and happy on race day.