Opinion: Top destinations in southern Illinois

By Juniper Oxford, Staff Reporter

Southern Illinois is a treasure trove of history, natural formations, unique businesses and fascinating find-its. These are some of the best destinations in southern Illinois for travelers and native Illinoisans alike. 

#5: Cave-In-Rock State Park

Cave-In-Rock State Park is located in Hardin County, Illinois. It’s main attraction, as the name implies, is a cave in a  rock formation that has an interesting and bloody history. 

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It was once home to a gang of bandits led by Samuel Mason and a hideaway for Jesse James. Disney Productions used Cave-In-Rock for the movie “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.” 

At Cave-In-Rock State Park, visitors can camp, hike, picnic in the pavillions, stay in a cabin or eat at Kaylor’s restaurant, which is located inside the state park. The camping site has lots available for twenty dollars a night with electricity and ten dollars a night for tent spaces. 

#4: Fort Massac State Park

Fort Massac, located in Massac County, Illinois, was a fort built and used during the French and Indian war during the mid 1700s. 

Visitors can fish, boat, hike, swim and bike at the state park that spans around 1,450 acres. 

A Fort Massac Encampment Festival is held every October at the historic site. The Fort stands as a reminder of the days that once were and is celebrated by history enthusiasts by showing how life was in the 18th century through the reenactments that take place there. 

#3: Giant City State Park

Giant City State Park is located in Jackson and Union County, Illinois. It is over 4,000 acres and has eight hiking trails, with the longest being 12 miles, named the Red Cedar Hiking Trail. 

See more: ( Hiking 101: Giant City State Park

The Giant City Lodge has a gift shop, cabins and dining available. The scenery is home to around 30 varieties of trees. 

#2: Cahokia Mounds 

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is located near Madison County, Illinois. It is a pre-Columbian Native American site that contains around 80 mounds. 

The mounds served different significant purposes. For instance, Mound 72 seems to be a burial ground, with more than 250 skeletons being uncovered from that site. Monks Mound is the largest mound at Cahokia, spanning 14 acres at its base. 

At the height of civilization at Cahokia, it was estimated that up to around 40,000 people lived there. At that time, it was the 13th century, and no European American city would reach that amount until Philadelphia in the 1700s. 

#1: Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is located in Hardin, Pope, Saline, and Gallatin County, Illinois. It is over 3,300 acres and Camel Rock, its main attraction, is featured on Illinois’ quarter in the America the Beautiful series. 

Garden of the Gods is first on the list because it’s many formations that characterize it, such as the Table Rock, Camel Rock, Devil’s Smokestack and Anvil Rock. It is one of the largest natural lands in Illinois. It began to be formed more than 320 million years ago by various forces of nature. 

The breathtaking formations are a result of an ancient sea that used to cover the area. A rusty red color covers parts of the rock formations, from iron in the ground water, and lichen patch over the rocks to contrast with the sandstone. 

(See more: Southern Illinois Naturally: Garden of the Gods and Cache River State Natural Area)

Honorable Mention: The Super Museum

Metropolis is known as the Hometown of Superman. Metropolis is home to the Super Museum, a museum dedicated to Superman, with a collection of over 70,000 objects. 

Metropolis also has a twelve foot, two ton bronze statue of Superman.

See more: (Superman Comes Home to Metropolis)

Reporter Juniper Oxford can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JuniperOxford.

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