Enjoy an 8.8 mile adventure along this newest bike trail in Southern Illinois. The George Rodgers Clark Discovery Trail (GRCDT) celebrates an American hero who took the fight to the British in what is now Southern Illinois during the “Illinois Campaign of 1778.
The trail begins at Superman Square and ends in Brookport. It is a multi-use path that is partially on low-use county roads and a paved trail. 3.6 miles of the GRCDT is in Fort Massac State Park. The longest prefab pedestrian bridge in Illinois is part of this trail where it crosses Seven Mile Creek inside the pakr.
Contact Information: 618-524-4712
The Lower Cache River Trail
The trail offers paddlers a quality canoe experience, 3 to 6 miles in length, through magnificent cypress-tupelo swamp. The highlight of the trail is Illinois’ largest, and therefore state champion, bald cypress tree. Like many trees within the Cache River State Natural Area, it is more than 1,000 years old.
Canoeists can begin at the Lower Cache River access area or at a private boat launch ($1 fee) south of Perks. Car shuttles are not necessary. The trail is marked with international canoe symbols and arrows and/or yellow stripes on trees. Canoe maps and fact sheets are available at the site headquarters or wetlands center. While canoeing the Lower Cache is enjoyable, paddlers should be aware that the Upper Cache River is difficult if not impossible to canoe. Severe bank erosion, which is responsible for trees tipping over and creating log jams, makes canoe portages very frequent.
Cove Hollow Hiking Trail
Cove Hollow is a hiking trail that is unknown even to most locals. Nestled just south of Carbondale, the trail follows the east side of Cedar Lake and is surrounded by cliffs that have been used for climbing throughout the years.
Because Cove Hollow is only a 20-minute drive from Carbondale, it is actually one of the closest sport climbing areas to the town, which makes it ideal for mid-week climbing sessions. The cliffs are home to several gears and bolted climbing routes that were put up by students during the 1970s and 80s. Recently, more attention has been brought to the area, as the climbing community has expanded and several quality bolted lines have gone up. For those who prefer to hike, rather than climb, the scenic trail can be somewhat adventurous. While the trail itself is rather mild, it runs 3-miles long making it difficult for those who are not used to this type of trip.
Downtown Makanda is home to one of southern Illinois' most unique and diverse attractions: the Makanda Boardwalk. Known as the southern Illinois gateway to the Shawnee National forest, the Boardwalk contains several opportunities for shopping and an ice cream and sandwich shop for a quick snack. One of the attractions is Visions Art Gallery, which features work from local artists. There is also the Rain Maker Studio, which displays one-of-a-kind metal work created by the owner himself.
The history of Makanda is just as captivating as some of the shops. The Village was established in 1845 and incorporated in 1888. Former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Paul Simon lived in Makanda for years. In fact, he is still commemorated by The Smiley Face Water Tower that has a bow tie painted on it, which was Simon's signature trademark.
Makanda is a town surrounded by natural beauty, and has served many functions in southern Illinois, from a major shipping center to a valley of the arts. It was the home of the Illinois Central Railroad tracks in 1845 that established Makanda as a fruit-shipping hub for the region. As other towns grew, Makanda lost its role as a major shipping center, and over time the economy declined. Now, the village's role lies within its contribution to the art community. With its two fairs per year, the annual spring Makanda Fest and the fall Vulture Fest, the village never fails to bring a crowd. Both festivals feature arts and crafts, live music, and in the fall hundreds of black and turkey vultures.
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is one of the nation's largest refuges, spanning nearly 44,000 acres of land and water across southern Illinois. Located just five miles west of Marion, the refuge contains major habitat types, including hardwood forest, agricultural land, grazing units, brushland, wetlands, and lakes.
The refuse provides safe public use programs and facilities to ensure that visitors have an enjoyable recreational experience. The refuge contains three main-made lakes, Crab Orchard Lake, Devils Kitchen, and Little Grassy, which together exceed 8,700 acres. Hunting, fishing, camping, boating, swimming, environmental education, and wildlife observation are available for public use.
If you're interested in bird watching, the refuge provides significant resting areas for migratory birds utilizing the Mississippi Flyway. During the winter, the number of Canada Geese can peak as high as 200,000. The refuge also contains 700 species of plants, 245 bird species, 33 mammal species, 63 fish species, and 44 reptile and amphibian species.
Cave in Rock Located in the eastern section of the adjoining Shawnee National Forest,Cave-in-Rock is one of southern Illinois' most unique areas. While the heavily park offers hiking trails along the riverbank, it is most popular for its 55-foot-wide cave. The cave sits at high bluffs overlooking the Ohio River, and from this spot you can capture some of the true natural beauty of southern Illinois.
The history behind Cave-in-Rock is fascinating in itself. The rock was first discovered by M. de Lery , a French explorer, in 1729. Lery called the land "caverne dans Le Roc," and the name stuck. Rumor has it that the cave served as a shelter for those travelling the Ohio River during the Revolutionary War, and is notorious for being linked to outlaws throughout the 1800s. In fact, the cave served as a backdrop for a scene in the 1962 film "How the West was Won," where bandits used the cave to lure in unsuspecting travelers.
Today, the well-wooded park, 60-foot-high hills and bluffs along the riverside, serves as a southern Illinois' favorite for outdoor recreation. The park also features Cave-In-Rock Restaurant and Lodging facilities, camp grounds, a fishing pond, and marina for boats travelling down the Ohio River.
Cave-in-Rock State Park is located on the Ohio River in Hardin County.
Tunnel Hill Bike Trail Bicycle enthusiasts are in for a treat when they take a ride on Southern Illinois' Tunnel Hill State Trail. The 47.5 mile scenic trail offers something for everyone. Riders on the trail get a firsthand glimpse of life in the small towns of Southern Illinois as the trail winds through towns such as Karnak, Vienna and Tunnel Hill. In between, travelers experience the crossing of 23 trestle bridges and an exciting 543 foot long tunnel which the trail its name. The trail is located in the beautiful Shawnee National Forest.
The Tunnel Hill Trail is rich in history. It began as part of a former railroad founded by Civil War General Ambrose Burnside. In 1872 Burnside and others began the Vincennes & Cairo Railroad, which connected Vincennes, Indiana and Cairo, Illinois. In 1991, the now unused corridor was donated to the state, and 10 years later, the entire 47.5 miles was opened to the public as a multiuse trail
Beginning in Harrisburg, the trail is at 370 feet above sea level, rising to 680 feet at Tunnel Hill and then dropping to 340 feet at Karnak. The trail crosses 23 trestles ranging from 34 feet long to 450 feet. The longest, Breeden Trestle, is also the highest at 90 feet. The abandoned railroad right-of-way varies between 40 and 200 feet in width. (Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources)
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources sponsors a bike ride on the trail each spring and fall. More information and a virtual tour of the Trail can be found at http://illinois.sierraclub.org/Shawnee/sites/s-tunnel_hill_bike_trail
The rock formation is called Camel Rock. Located in southern Illinois in the Shawnee National Forest.
This wilderness area covers over 3,300 acres of beautiful old growth forest. 320 million years ago, southern Illinois was covered by an open shallow sea, the sediment rock in this area is over 4 miles deep. This area was thrust upward out of the water and became a small mountain range, today known as the Shawnee Hills. When the great ice sheets covered the Midwest, they extended at their largest size, just north of the Shawnee Hills. The real magic that formed the geological oddities of The Garden of the Gods came when the glaciers melted into a cacophony of raging waterfalls, rivers, rivulets, and the like that carved some interesting rock formations that represent various objects.
Camel Rock is well known in this area and easily seen.