Fox Ridge State Park, a 2,064 acre park 8 miles
south of Charleston in east-central Illinois, is known for its steep,
thickly wooded ridges, broad, lush valleys and miles of rugged,
scenic hiking trails.
In sharp contrast to the flat prairieland of
most of this section of Illinois, the Coles County park is set amidst rolling hills
along the forested bluffs of the Embarras ("Ambraw") River.
Fox Ridge State Park
is a great place to visit at any time of year. In winter, the snow-softened ridges are alive
with birds and animals. In the spring, a panoramic blanket of multi-hued
wildflowers and flowering trees celebrate the resurgence of growth.
By summer the dense vegetation and new generation of wildlife are thriving
in the sun, and autumn brings its brilliant display of color as nature
enhances the woodlands with yellows, reds, purples and oranges.
Arrowheads and artifacts uncovered in this
area indicate habitation by prehistoric Native American cultures. Early
historic tribes included the Piankashaw and the Illinois, both of whom
were pushed out when the Kickapoo migrated into the region from Wisconsin
in the late 1600s.
European settlers in the area originally
were centered around the Embarras River, which provided their main source
of transportation, fishing, trapping, and, of course, water. Before the
development of the railroad, much of the economy of the area also depended
on the river, with flat boats carring livestock and manufacturing materials
downstream to the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi rivers and on to New Orleans
and the Gulf of Mexico.
In the late 1930s, the state of Illinois
acquired a small parcel of
land, and residents of the Charleston area helped preserve and develop
it as a state park. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed
a residence/workshop complex, a laboratory for the Natural History Survey, 4 miles
of hiking trails, a large brick pavilion and a dam and spillway which
created the 12-acre Ridge Lake.
Ridge Lake, completed in 1941 and currently
administered by the Illinois Natural History Survey in Urbana, is used
for researching means to improve fishing in Illinois
waters. Studies at the lake (the first at which Natural History Survey
technicians were able to control the water level) have included investigations
of the effects on resident fish populations of lake drawdowns, supplemental
feeding of bluegill and channel catfish and introduction of supplemental
predators, such as muskellunge and walleye. The ongoing research efforts constitute the most
thorough and longest continuous fish studies in the United States.
To further enhance the development of the
park, the Fox Ridge Foundation was founded and dedicated to the improvement
and promotion of the area. The foundation has provided part-time summer student interpreters, playground equipment and the interpretive pond outside of the Visitors' Center. Governed by local citizens interested in the
park's future, the foundation sponsors several annual events, publishes a quarterly newsletter
and organizes and administers fund drives for park
improvements. Supported by the general public through membership dues
and donations, the foundations is a tax-exempt charitable organization.
For further information contact the park office or write to the Fox Ridge
Foundation, P.O. Box 714, Charleston, IL, 61920. Visit the website to find out about upcoming events and programs.
For the day visitor there are many
designated picnic areas scattered throughout the park, with tables
and grills (ground fires are not permitted), restrooms, drinking
water, playgrounds, two baseball diamonds and sand volleyball courts.
A large, brick outdoor pavilion and eight smaller shelters are available
for reunions and group gatherings. Six shelters are available for reservation. Reservations are available at www.reserveamerica.com.
Picnic tables, cooking grills,
drinking water, toilet facilities and a sanitary dumping stations
are located in all campgrounds. The shower buildings are closed
by November 1st (may be earlier if bad weather) and reopen May
1st (may be earlier
- weather depending). Reservations are
available at www.reserveamerica.com.
to the rich, abundant plant and animal life in the park and its
dramatic hills and bluffs, the 8 miles of the meandering trail
system is the natural focus for most visitors. Fox
Ridge is a ravine of glacial moraine and many of the 10 connected trails are
steep. Eighteen picturesque wooden bridges and numerous rest benches make
them easily negotiable. Descriptive markers at each trail entrance provide detailed information. Turkey, deer, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits,
turkey vultures, hawks, owls, quail, pheasants and the lush foliage
will make your journey both exciting and restful.
Eight separate but looping trails are
located within the park, allowing you to extend
or cut short your walk. Options range from a walk along the Embarras
Riverto a nice walk through the decidious forest once common in the area.
A four-mile horse trail is available, however, you must bring your own horse and there are no overnight facilities
for horses (Horse trail closed from November 15 - April 15).
The staircase to Eagle's Nest climbs 144 steps to a deck overlooking
the river, providing wonderful views during the fall, winter and
A fitness trail offers another dimension to the trail system. Two accessible
trails are available, one wandering along the edge of a ravine and the
other circling a small fishing pond with an accessible fishing pier.
Lake is well-stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass and channel
catfish, however, fishing is permitted
by reservation only at this research facility. Contact the Illinois Natural History Survey
at (217) 345-6490 or write to the park office for dates and
Fishing in the Embarras River is open to
hardy anglers willing to descend the steep slopes. Lake Charleston,
about 4 miles from the park, also provides opportunities.
Canoe access: Ttwo canoe launches, one north and one south, provide a 5 mile trip
on the Embarras River.
The northern area of the park contains 1,129 acres open for public hunting. A windshield card is needed for hunting, and can be printed off at dnr.illinois.gov. The Fox Ridge hunter fact sheet shows boundary lines and describes the area and species most abundant.
Fox Ridge Hunter
Fact Sheet | Paul C. Burrus Hunter Fact Sheet
Brochures available at the Park:
Acorn Avenue - Self Guided Nature Trail |
Summer Prairie & Roadside Flowers at FRSP | Trees & Shrubs at
FRSP | Spring Flowers at FRSP | Fox Ridge State Park Bird List
Park Hours: April 1 - September 30, 7:30 am - 10 pm; October 1 - March 31, 8:30 am - 5 pm
From I-57, take Route 16 Exit east
to Charleston. Stay on Rt. 16, all the way through Charleston to
the Intersection of Rt. 16 and Rt. 130. Turn Right/South and go
From I-70, take Exit for Rt. 130 North.
Go approximately 11 miles.
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity
Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.