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Vacation in Shawnee Forest Country - Illinois

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Area Overview

Southernmost Illinois – The Shawnee National Forest

The most beautiful scenery in the Midwest! Unique rock formations, caves, spectacular bluffs and canyons – the area offers hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, boating, swimming, biking, canoeing, and scenic driving, in addition, most of the forest is open to horseback riding. Forested hills, towering bluffs, meandering rivers, emerald springs, and clear lakes are a few of the backdrops the Shawnee provides.

Includes Cities/Towns: Alto Pass, Anna, Ava, Boles, Brookport, Buncombe, Cairo, Cave In Rock, Cobden, Creal Springs, Cypress, Dongola, Eddyville, Eldorado, Elizabethtown, Golconda, Goreville, Grand Chain, Grand Tower, Harrisburg, Herod, Jonesboro, Karbers Ridge, Karnak, Makanda, Mc Clure, Metropolis, Millcreek, Mound City, Muddy, Murphysboro, Olive Branch, Olmsted, Perks, Pomona, Pulaski, Raleigh, Rosiclare, Shawneetown, Stonefort, Tamms, Thebes, Ullin, Vienna, Villa Ridge, Wolf Lake.

Things to Do

Recreation & Fitness

Shawnee Forest Weekends
Prehistoric Mississippians stalked deer and lived comfortably atop a cliff overlooking what is now the Shawnee National Forest, named for the defiant ones lead by Tecumseh into these lands. Cherokees traveled the Trail of Tears on the forced march to Oklahoma, and their cries of injustice still echo in our canyons. Today visitors retrace the steps of the ancients through forests filled with mysticism, beauty, wildlife, canyons, waterways, history, and adventure in Southernmost, Illinois. Read on for weekend ideas out of the ordinary.

The Shawnee National Forest is home to a vast number of bird species. Visitors come armed with books, digital cameras, tripods, and binoculars. They chose to visit Southern Illinois in order to catalogue the most birds in the shortest space of time. You find eagles, hawks, buzzards, wild turkeys, owls, cardinals, robins, purple martins, three species of blue birds, wrens, finches, herons, and many more species. Bird-watching is the fastest-growing hobby worldwide.

People who love to get away for the weekend, enjoy living well and getting a lot of fresh air and exercise. Bicyclists visit often, and invariably they cycle the Tunnel Hill State Trail. Some elect to ride the beautiful short route from Tunnel Hill to Vienna, where they pass through a tunnel so dark that they lose all sense of dimension, over trestles, cutting through bluffs, and through sprawling forests and farmlands. Most serious athletes take on the challenge of riding from Harrisburg to Karnak and back, which is approximately 90 miles!

Climbing, Walking & On Horseback
The canyons of Southernmost Illinois are amazing, and climbers of all skill levels visit here to experience some new rocky challenges. Serious climbers attend the professional climbing school located on Draper’s Bluff, while casual climbers, picnic makers, and walkers prefer the paths of Bellsmith Springs, Jackson Hollow & Falls, and Ferne Clyffe. Photographers find hidden waterways, falls, rock formations, swamps, and canyons filled with wildlife and unbelievable beauty in Lusk Creek Canyon, Burden Falls, and other sites in the Shawnee National Forest. All these wonders can be experienced on foot, by canoe, or on horseback.

History & Genealogy
The area is full of Native American, military, and pioneer history. If bird-watching is the world’s fastest growing pursuit in outdoor activities, then genealogy is the fastest growing indoor/outdoor hobby. Johnson and Pope County are among the oldest counties in Illinois and full of records, cemeteries, and historical research groups. An unusual and satisfying weekend adventure is an ancestor hunt. Visitors who believe they are part Cherokee come to the area searching for their ancestors, and try to attend meetings of the Western United Cherokee, who host cultural and genealogy nights twice monthly. Others of pioneer stock visit the historic courthouses with records dating back to a time before Illinois was a state, and delve into the collections of the Vienna Public Library or the Paul Powell House. The Johnson County Genealogical & Historical Society has created a project documenting pioneers in the area prior to 1850. The pioneer cemeteries are very old, and there are Native American burial grounds throughout. Perhaps the most compelling is the prehistoric site atop Millstone Bluff near Robbs.

For Children
Families like to visit areas where their children can have new and meaningful experiences. Three weekend choices that children never forget include first-time fishing adventures, horseback riding lesson or slow trekking, and a climbing lesson. Children like to learn new things, and there are quite a few things to learn and do when fishing. First, there is the process of finding nightcrawlers or other bait; learning to bait the hook; casting; hooking a fish; and then landing or netting it. Some will throw the fish back, and some will clean, scale, and cook them for a delicious dinner.

Riding a horse on a forest trail is a pleasure everyone should experience, and children adore the opportunity to pet the horses, mount them, take their first ride, and have their pictures taken in the saddle. Lake Glendale Stables is great place new riders, and an experienced outrigger will teach them how to ride and take them for a safe and stimulating ride. Lake Glendale Stables books one family at a time or a small group of adults. Rock and mountain climbing are great ways to keep fit, learn quick decision making and safety, and these activities are very exciting for children. Vertical Heartland Climbing School provides beginning climbers with professional advice on equipment and all the ins and outs of expert climbing techniques.

For Lovers
Starscapes in the Shawnee National Forest are brilliant, breathtaking, and a new experience for many city dwellers. They are also very romantic, as are the canyons and flora that abound, which makes this a great place to fall in love. There are a number of cabins, bed & breakfast, and inns in the area now to choose from for a romantic weekend getaway. Celebrate your love, anniversary, engagement, or get married here.
For more information, contact the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau at 800-248-4373,

Cultural Activities

In the heart of the Shawnee National Forest lies the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, Illinois` first and most award-winning trail. Twelve unique, family owned and operated, wineries offer a diverse selection of nationally and internationally acclaimed wines for your enjoyment.


SOUTHERNMOST ILLINOIS – Home of the Shawnee National Forest

Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind art, wine, antiques, or exploring the great outdoors, Southernmost Illinois can take you there.

The adventure begins in the rolling Southern Illinois countryside where you can sip your way along and discover truly surprising and authentic wine culture on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.
Bed and Breakfasts, cabins and cottage rentals dot the region and are great launching pads for wine tasting, hiking or biking enthusiasts.

Nearby, the Shawnee National Forest offers hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and some of the best fishing along with the all new Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour zip line adventure.
You won’t want to miss the Garden of Gods--rock formations more than 300 million years old --sculpted patiently over time by wind and rain. An old railway converted bike path, The Tunnel Hill State Trail is a 45-mile trail winding through farmland, thick woods, lush wetlands and a tunnel for which it was named.

Outdoor sports enthusiasts will find utopia through an assortment of water sports, fishing, hunting, and entertainment at Egyptian Hills Resort on Lake of Egypt.

With its breathtaking natural beauty and great opportunities for outdoor recreation, a trip to Giant City State Park near Makanda is sure to delight visitors of all ages. Check out the 82-foot, 100,000-gallon water tower with a 50-foot observation deck that provides memorable panoramic views.

For those looking for a high adrenaline experience, Mermet Springs may be your next destination.
A spring-fed quarry, a full scuba diving training center, lots of fish and a sunken Boeing 727 from a Hollywood movie, are used to enhance the ultimate scuba experience.

Nearby in the town of Metropolis, the official Home of Superman proudly honors their favorite son with a 15-foot bronze statue of the Man of Steel right in the middle of Superman Square.


Southernmost Illinois is a driving destination. You’re invited to visit us anytime throughout the year. It’s easy to get here from Interstates 57 or 24. We’re less than three hours from St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, or Evansville.


Monthly Temperatures / Rainfall

 Month  Low  Avg  High  Rain
 January  22.8  32.1  41.4  3.4 "
 February  26.7  37.1  47.6  3.4 "
 March  35.7  46.9  58.1  4.5 "
 April  44.9  56.8  68.6  4.7 "
 May  54.3  65.8  77.3  4.9 "
 June  62.8  74.1  85.4  4.3 "
 July  67.1  78.1  89.1  3.8 "
 August  64.8  76.3  87.9  3.4 "
 September  57.0  69.1  81.2  3.1 "
 October  45.2  58.0  70.9  3.3 "
 November  36.3  46.7  57.1  4.5 "
 December  27.1  36.3  45.6  4.2 "

Best Time To Go:

Fall and summer.

The climate and beauty of the area are especially charming during the spring and fall seasons with the spring bringing an abundance of blooming dogwoods, redbuds, and wildflowers. The fall is saturated with color as the leaves turn. The summers are warm and humid and the winters are mild. There is a rich cultural history associated with the southern Illinois region. Native Americans have used the area’s resources for over 15,000 years. French and English explorers traveled the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in their first penetrations into the wilderness. The homesteads of the earliest settlers were also concentrated along these major waterways. Cultural resource sites abound on the forest and this factor alone makes public ownership and protection critical for many properties.



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