Sites & Recreation in Southern Illinois
The Southern Illinois Artisans Shop & Visitors Center, located at Rend Lake, sponsors Arts and Crafts Festival and the Children's Festival. On display are crafts, souvenirs, and information about natural resources and environmental endeavors of the state.
Cave-in-Rock was a haven for river pirates in the late 1700s and early 1800s who lured unsuspecting travelers on the Ohio River into this den of thieves.
The Shawneetown Bank, located in Old Shawneetown, is the oldest structure in Illinois built specifically as a bank. Constructed in 1840, the structure housed banking operations for a century.
Fort Massac, located on the Ohio River, features an annual encampment festival in October. As many as 20,000 vendors, craftsmen, buck skinners, Native Americans, and military re-enactors participate in the festivities.
The Old Slave House, located in Gallatin County, is famous for housing slaves and indentured servants who worked the nearby salt works in the 1800s.
The Du Quoin State Fair, brought by the State of Illinois in the 1980s, operates in late August until Labor Day annually. The fair includes exhibits, animal shows, festive food, carnival attractions, nightly entertainment, harness racing, and automobile races. Odd baby contests and watermelon prizes are just a few of the fascinating tales compiled in The History of the Du Quoin State Fair (from 1923-2002).
Built as a monument of peace, the cross at the summit of Bald Knob Hill can be seen over an area of 7,500 square miles when it is illuminated at night. Every Easter Sunday, thousands of people participate in sunrise services at the foot of the cross. The valley below and surrounding hills can be viewed from atop this hill. Built of white porcelain steel panels, it stands 111 feet tall and is 22 feet square at the base. Its arms extend 63 feet horizontally.
The Shawnee National Forest covers over 277,500 acres in the Ozark and Shawnee Hills in the region, covering roughly half of the southern tip of Illinois. About 10% of the Forest has been declared wilderness area. Designated in August 1939 as the Shawnee Forest by President Roosevelt, most of the Forest consists of over-farmed land on which people could no longer make a living. In the 1930s and 40s, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted much of this land to pine trees to prevent erosion and restore the soil. Some advocates have protested the commercial logging of the forest.
The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, near Carbondale, is run by the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It restricts camping and fires, and protects wildlife on the Refuse. The Wildlife Service protects and manages deer, geese, ducks, wild turkeys, owls, quail, and other wildlife.
State Parks and recreational areas include Cave-in-Rock State Park, Cache River State Natural Area, Dixon Springs State Park, Ferne Clyffe State Park, Fort Massac State Park, Giant City State Park, Golconda Marina, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area, Lake Murphysboro State Park, Little Black Slough Heron Pond, Mermet Lake Conservation Area, Pyramid State Park, Rend Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, Saline County State Fish & Wildlife Area, Trail of Tears State Forest, Union County Conservation Area, and Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.
Union and Jackson counties are home to four award-winning wineries. Together, they make up the Southern Illinois Wine Country, an increasingly popular stopping point for tourists. The four wineries are producing nearly 15,000 gallons of wine a year. The wines are available at the wineries and other local outlets.
Southern Illinois is an exceptionally good place to hunt small game, waterfowl, turkey and deer. It is also the Canadian goose capital of the world. Every autumn hundreds of these geese flock to the region to spend the Winter. Public hunting areas managed by the Department of Natural Resources, along with privately owned hunt clubs, provide water fowling opportunities for thousands of hunters annually.
Fishing opportunities are abundant in Southern Illinois. In addition to stocked strip mine pits and small ponds are the following lakes: Cedar Lake, Crab Orchard Lake, Devils Kitchen Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Lake Glendale, Lake Kinkaid, Lake Murphysboro, Lake of Egypt, Little Grassy Lake, Mermet Lake, Pyramid Lake, Rend Lake, and West Frankfort Lake.
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