Natural Wonders

Visit the Illinois Ozarks!

Bell Smith SpringsBell Smith Springs
Bell Smith Springs is one of the most beautiful recreation areas the Shawnee National Forest has to offer. It contains a series of clear, rocky streams and scenic canyons bordered by high sandstone cliffs and an abundance of vegetation unique to Illinois. The trail system consists of eight miles of interconnected trails featuring strange and wonderful rock formations, such as Devil’s Backbone, Boulder Falls and a natural rock bridge. Hiking this system of trails is a favorite activity because of the rock features, scenic overlooks, hidden springs and lush flora and fauna.

Bork Falls and Ferne Cliffe State Park 

Borks Falls Ferne Clyffe State Park is on 2,430 acres in Johnson County near Goreville.  Ferne Clyffe’s acreage holds a number of notable geographic features including limestone bluffs, cliff caves, naturally forested woodlands and small seasonal waterfalls. The “waterfall” hike is beautiful and a must see while you are in the area.

Burden FallsBFIMG_0102BF2
An intermittent,seasonal stream spills over Burden Falls in a picturesque series of waterfalls with a total drop of about 100 feet and the greatest single drop a distance of around 20 feet. The Wilderness shares a boundary with Bay Creek Wilderness to the south, and both exemplify the scenic characteristics of the Shawnee Hills: sandstone ledges, bluffs and cliffs on which grow red cedar, farkleberry and blackjack oak. At the bottom of the bluffs, you will find greater soil depth supporting post oak and, as you move away from the cliffs, even deeper soil where white oak grow.

Cache River WetlandsCache River Wetlands
Cache River State Natural Area is situated in southernmost Illinois within a floodplain carved long ago by glacial floodwater of the Ohio River. When the Ohio River adopted its present course, it left the Cache River to meander across rich and vast wetlands. Among the outstanding natural features found within the area today are massive cypress trees whose flared bases, called buttresses, exceed 40 feet circumference. Many are more than 1,000 years old, including one that has earned the title of state champion bald cypress because of its huge trunk girth, towering height and heavily branched canopy. The National Park Service has designated two National Natural Landmarks within its borders – Bottomland Swamp and Heron Pond. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has identified three Nature Preserves here – Section 8 Woods, Heron Pond-Wildcat Bluff and Little Black Slough – and registered 10,367 acres of the area’s 14,791 acres in the Land and Water Reserve Program. These designations assure that the site management will emphasize restoration and preservation of the area’s natural characteristics.

Cave in Rock State ParkCave in Rock State Park
Wander along the Ohio River and step into the large Cave In Rock cavern steeped in history of river pirates. The first European explorer  encountered the cave in 1729.  It was a conspicuous curiosity frequently mentioned by later travelers in diaries and journals.  Beautiful vistas. Enjoy the spectacular river view from the lodge perched atop the overhanging bluffs. Cabins, picnicking, showers and camping are available.

Dixon Springs State ParkDixon Springs State Park
786 acre state park situated on a giant block of rock . Cliffs, wet weather waterfalls, large boulders and a running stream are just some of the sights to see when hiking, picnicking or visiting this beautiful park. A modern swimming pool with a 45-foot water slide is provided for swimmer’s enjoyment. Chocolate Factory and ice crème parlor nearby.

Garden of the Gods IllinoisGarden of the Gods
Explore the rock formations, cliffs and trails of the most visited site in the Shawnee National Forest. See Camel Rock, Anvil Rock, Devil’s Smokestack and many other fascinating formations. Listed in USA Today as “One of Ten Great Places to Photograph”, the site is adjacent to a 3000 acre wilderness area which is relatively undisturbed. Connects to River to River Trail.  Will appear on American the Beautiful 2016 quarter representing Illinois.

Glen O Jones LakeGlen O Jones Lake and Saline County Conservation Area State Park
Saline County State Fish & Wildlife Area, 5 miles southeast of Equality in southeastern Illinois, was the site of springs and wells that furnished brine for one of the two salt works. Although the springs and wells are not visible today, the area primarily is a recreational site. The initial acquisition of 524 acres of land was made in 1959 by the state of Illinois, and the total acreage now totals 1,270 acres, including a beautiful 105-acre lake.

High Knob VistaHigh Knob Vista
Enjoy a panoramic view of the great Shawnee Forest and its vast, wooded hills and pastoral landscape. This area is a mecca for hikers and horseback riders. Located on the River to River Trail.

Jackson FallsJackson Falls
Jackson Falls offers many opportunities for technical climbing and is a beautiful scenic area on the Shawnee National forest. To reach Jackson Falls from Harrisburg, turn south on Highway 145 to Delwood. Turn right (west) toward Bell Smith Springs. Pass through Mccormick, then Zion Hill Church.  Turn left (south) on forest road 494. Road is rough until the unmarked recreation area on the right, just before the creek. There is an outhouse there and a bulletin board with information supplied by the Illinois Climbers’ Association.  Camping is allowed here. A trail follows the top of the bluff (southeast) around to the “dog leg” where you can walk into the canyon, or you can tie up and rappel.

Mantle RockMantle Rock Kentucky
Just a few minutes across the Ohio River from Cave in Rock, Illinois using the Cave in Rock Ferry is Mantle Rock. Mantle Rock is on the infamous Cherokee Trail of Tears and is where many Cherokee were forced to spend two bitterly cold weeks encamped. They were waiting for the frozen Ohio River to thaw enough for the ferry to carry them from Berry’s Ferry, Kentucky, to Golconda, Illinois. You are invited to walk along the same path the Cherokee traveled in 1838-1839. The loop trail is 2.75 miles long.

Mill Stone BluffMillstone Bluff
National Historical Registry. Got its name from the millstone for pioneer mills dug from a small quarry on this hill. Before that however, it was a very interesting Mississippi Indian Village. (The same as is found in Cahokia) .  Vistas, scenic. Near city of Glendale.

Old Stone FaceOld Stone Face
Stone Face is about ½ mile but strenuous at the end you are rewarded with scenic vistas and of course Stone Face.  The Stone face Trail continues to Glen O Jones’ Lake  for a total of about 3 miles. Ends at the Chief Tecumseh statue in the wildlife area of Glen O Jones. Marvel at nature’s handiwork. The likeness is one of the finest, most natural you will find. Stone face is north of the small town of Herod. Go North on Illinois Rt 34 to the town of Rudiment From here follow the signs to Stone Face Road, about 4 mile from Rudiment. The entrance to Stone Face is Forest Service road 150 and is about .25 miles long.

One Horse GapOne Horse Gap Visualize an ancient Indian tribe passing through “One Horse Gap” a nearby narrow rock crevice that extends downward from the top of a sheer bluff near this 26-acre lake.

Pounds Hollow LakePounds Hollow Lake Recreation Area
A picturesque setting, Pounds Hollow campground and lake are tucked away amongst the Shawnee Hills, where you can relax and get away from it all. Completed in the early 1940’s, Pounds Hollow Lake is popular for the same reasons it was 60 years ago and continues to provide opportunities to picnic, fish, swim, camp and hike. Pounds Hollow Recreation Area is a popular destination for wildflower enthusiasts, hikers, picnickers, and folks who enjoy swimming and relaxing on a beach. There are two interesting trails that traverse the area allowing visitors to experience a wide variety of natural communities and marvelous geological settings, such as sandstone glades and cliffs, and a sandstone canyon with a gentle stream flowing through the canyon and into Pounds Hollow Lake. Rim Rock National Recreation Trail has a separate parking lot just west of the entrance to Pounds Hollow Recreation Area. From Rim Rock trail visitors can descend the tall cliff face by means of a staircase that takes you through a narrow pathway between giant sandstone cliffs.

Rim Rock Recreational TrailRim Rock Recreational Trail
Hike the Rim Rock trail which meanders through native hardwoods, past the remains of an old Indian Wall. Take the rock stairway to the valley leading to a huge rock shelter bluff called Ox-Lot Cave. Pass through “Fat Man’s Misery”, a narrow passageway rough massive cliffs and huge boulders. Top trail is paved. Lower trail leads to Pounds Hollow Lake.

River to River TrailRiver to River Hiking and Equestrian Trail
The River to River Trail spans 160 miles from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower on the Mississippi River. 160 miles of Shawnee Forest scenery. Whether you’re experiencing Southern Illinois for the first time or have loved this area for years, there are many surprises along the trail. If you want to truly experience the Shawnee National Forest and Southern Illinois then the River to River Trail is for you.

Sand CaveSand Cave
Largest sandstone cave in North America and probably occupied for more then 12,000 years. Cliffs and springs close by are also interesting. This cave is off Cedar Grove Church Road and is close to the Bell Smith Springs area.  Sand Cave was a part of a network of secret routes and safe places to freedom extending from the southern to northern United States and into Canada.  Underground Railroad accounts mention topographical features within the Shawnee National Forest, rock shelters and bluff tops such as Ox-Lot Cave at Rim Rock and Sand Cave to name a few.

Tower RockTower Rock
Hike to the top of this majestic bluff rising 160 feet above the Ohio River midway between the historic river towns of Elizabethtown and Cave-In-Rock. Camp or picnic at the base of Tower Rock.

War Bluff Bird SanctuaryWar Bluff Bird Sanctuary
The largest Illinois Audubon sanctuary, War Bluff Valley Sanctuary, is located in rural Pope County in southeastern Illinois. Adjoining the wilderness of the Shawnee National Forest, this nearly 500-acre sanctuary is home to a large variety of birds and mammals, as well as a great diversity of rare plants, including several species of native orchids. The purpose of the sanctuary is to protect the wildlife and habitat, and for research on populations and native species. War Bluff Valley Sanctuary is a place for birds and other creatures. It is also for people – people who respect and love wildlife and the land. Take Hwy. 146 north from Golconda, Illinois 3.5 miles to Bushwhack Road; turn left, follow Bushwack Road approximately 2 miles to the sanctuary entrance on right.

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