natural formations are as awe-inspiring or intriguing as a cave. The
deep, dark recesses immediately conjure up images of adventure, mystery,
terror, robbers and pirates.
in southern Illinois, you can experience this fascination for yourself.
Sitting atop the high bluffs overlooking the scenic Ohio River, the
heavily wooded park is named for the 55-foot-wide cave that was carved
out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago. Trails
winding along the riverbank offer river scenes including riverboats and barges.
history of this imposing natural phenomenon is filled with colorful and
provocative tales. Yet the wild stories connected to this geological wonder lack
verifiable, historical documentation. Nonetheless, popular local lore
surrounding Cave-in-Rock's pioneer days still includes fanciful tales of
river piracy and ambush attacks upon early, unsuspecting Ohio River
travelers. The fact is, piracy and other crimes attributed to Cave-in-Rock
outlaws were, indeed, known to occur on both the Ohio and Mississippi
rivers between the late 18th and early 19th centuries. But there is no
historical evidence Cave-in-Rock ever actually sheltered criminals beyond
what might be considered brief stopovers.
first European explorer to encounter the cave was M. de Lery of France, who in
1729 called it caverne dans Le Roc. It was a conspicuous curiosity frequently
mentioned by later travelers in diaries and journals. Following the
Revolutionary War, this immense recess came to represent a waypoint and
natural shelter for people traveling along the Ohio River. Although
Cave-in-Rock itself might never have been a home for outlaws during this
period, anyone floating along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in the late
1700s and early 1800s would have faced risky and uncertain passage for hundreds
of miles. Criminals in the sparsely populated frontier were known to prey upon
people floating their goods toward New Orleans and other river
of the most ambitious of these ruthless malefactors was Samuel Mason. Once an
officer in George Washington’s Revolutionary Army, Mason was known to
dispatch his cohorts out onto the river to befriend unwary and bewildered
travelers with offers of help and guidance. As part of the ruse, these henchmen
would disable victim's boats or force them ashore, where the hapless pilgrims
would be robbed, or worse. Victims did not always live to tell their
the early 1800s, following the demise of the Mason Gang, the even more
notorious Harpe Brothers, a pair of killers fleeing execution in Kentucky, also
preyed upon victims in the Cave-in-Rock region. Again, no historical
documentation exists linking this conspicuous landmark with the Harpe Brothers.
Yet popular lore continues to link the crimes committed by Mason,
the Harpe Brothers and all river outlaws of the day with the famous
Cave-in-Rock. It's a reputation that led to a Hollywood movie being filmed at
the site. The cave served as a backdrop for a scene in the1962 movie “How The
West Was Won.” In the scene, ruthless bandits used the cave to lure
unsuspecting travelers to an untimely end.
river piracy and other crimes remained a risk for boaters floating past
Cave-In-Rock and anywhere in pioneer America, by the mid-1830s the quickening
westward expansion of civilization and the steady growth in the local
population and commerce had destroyed or driven out the “river rats.” Beginning
in the mid-1800s, the cave not only served as temporary shelter for pioneers on
their way west, steam-powered riverboats were known to dock below the cave as a
tourist attraction for passengers. Throughout the 19th century, this remarkable
geological feature was an important landmark, prominently displayed on maps
from the period.
1929, the State of Illinois acquired 64.5 acres for a park that since has
increased to 204 acres. The well-wooded, 60-foot-high hills and the rugged
bluffs along the river - commanding expansive views of the famous waterway -
became Cave-In-Rock State Park.
In the words of Illinois historian John W. Allen, “Today only the natural
beauty of the historic spot remains, clothed in mystery. In the hollow silence
of the cave that echoes the peaceful cooing of doves, a visitor can let a vivid
imagination run riot.”
and Lodging features four duplex guest houses with eight suites, each
accommodating up to four people comfortably. The suites contain deluxe
baths, a dining area and wet bar, a large bedroom/living room and a private
patio deck overlooking the Ohio River. One suite is accessible.
The Lodge operates on a seasonal basis. Contact the Lodge
at (618) 289-4545.
The full-service restaurant
is gaining a reputation for fine southern-style cooking and has plenty
of homemade specialties on the menu. Sunday dinners feature fried chicken,
roast beef with all the trimmings, southern fried catfish, marinated chicken,
shrimp, steaks and a full short-order menu along with homemade
desserts. Hours are daily 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, call (618) 289-4545 or write Cave-In-Rock Restaurant
and Lodging, Cave-In-Rock, IL 62919.
to the natural splendor of the cave itself, the park contains two established
hiking trails of moderate difficulty, plus numerous unmarked trails for
exploration and appreciation of tranquil forests and inspiring views.
For the day visitor,
ample parking is provided by five separate lots. There are three developed
playground areas for children; and shaded picnic areas situated throughout
the park provide tables, grills, water hydrants and drinking fountains.
Four large picnic shelters are available for group gatherings.
A pond is available
for fishing, and the Ohio River provides excellent fishing, boating and
water sport opportunities. The river can be accessed directly from two
boat ramps with adjacent parking on the western edge of the park.
The site superintendent and park rangers can provide details on fishing
licenses and the rules and regulations for fishing and boating on the
On the scenic north side of the park are camping accommodations
with 34 Class A sites that rent for $20 a night, and $3 a night on holiday weekends/weekdays (Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day). Each is equipped
with electricity and can accommodate units up to 60-feet long. Twenty-five
Class B/S tent sites also are available for $10 a night, and showers,
restrooms and dumping stations are present in both camping areas. Contact
the site superintendent or campground host for camping permits and information.
Accessible sites also are available. Grills are furnished
at each campsite.
For a different view
of Cave-In-Rock, consider a boat ride down the Ohio River. Be sure to
visit the Golconda Marina located on the river
near Golconda at Lusk Creek. A full-service marina, Golconda offers overnight
moorage with 100 slips available, both covered and open. Slips have electric
and water hookups. There is a marina service and repair, boat lifts, fuel,
sanitary pump outs and dry storage. Multiple free launch ramps are available,
along with parking for trailers and cars, a snack shop, gift shop, and
bait and tackle shop.
Cave-In-Rock State Park is located in the eastern section of the adjoining Shawnee National Forest. Within a 25 mile radius of Cave-In-Rock State Park are the popular USDA attraction of Garden of The Gods, Pounds Hollow Recreational Area, Rim Rock Trails and Tower Rock Recreational Area. These attractions offer visitors opportunities for hiking, camping, picnicking, fishing, and aquatic activities such as swimming and boating activities.
Located 1 mile north of Cave-In-Rock State Park is the Hardin County Golf Club which is open to the public during the summer months. It is a beautiful 9 hole course offering full facilities for the golfer and tee times are available by calling (618) 289-4587.
Another popular attraction is the Shawnee Queen tour boat which ports out of the Golconda Marina three times daily and offers a daily 3-hour cruise on the Ohio River from Golconda to Cave-In-Rock. Reservations can be made by calling (618) 683-5875. Visitors are treated to the scenic Ohio River and all the attractions along the way, as pointed out by the professional tour guide.
Located at the river front at Cave-In-Rock is the Cave-In-Rock Ferry, providing transportation to the adjoining state of Kentucky. Visitors may cross on the ferry to Kentucky at no cost to visit the adjoining Amish Country approximately 2 miles south on Kentucky Hwy 91 and Marion, Kentucky, a quaint town known throughout the area for it's antique shops, country dining and southern country hospitality.
Located on Illinois Hwy146 15 miles west of Cave-In-Rock is the village of Rosiclare, home of the Hardin County Fluorspar Museum, a must-see for visitors to this area. Hardin County, where Cave-In-Rock State Park is located is known as "The Flourspar Capital of Illinois." Flourspar is a mineral known for its beautiful colors and its mineral value as a catalyst in the production of steel.
Visitors also may visit the Village of Elizabethtown 12 miles west of Cave-In-Rock on Illinois Highway 146. One community attaction is the historic Rose Hotel, a popular Bed & Breakfast. The "Rose" was opened in 1812 by the founder of Elizabethtown, the James McFarland family, and is the oldest hotel in Illinois. Fine dining may be enjoyed while in Elizabethtown at the River Restaurant, located on the riverfront.
Park is located on the Ohio River in Hardin County, Illinois. To reach
the park from the northern parts of Illinois, proceed south on I-57 exiting
at Marion, IL, on highway 13 east. Go east through Marion and Harrisburg
to the intersection of Illinois 1 and 13. Turn south 22 miles on highway
1 to Cave-in-Rock State Park. From the south, take highway 90 from Marion,
KY., and cross the Cave-in-Rock ferry and follow directional signs to
the park entrance. From the southeast take I-24 west from the I-24 bridge
to exit #16, then go 38 miles east on Illinois highway 146 to the park.
From Southern Indiana, proceed through Evansville, IN traveling West on
highway 62 and Illinois highway 141 to Illinois Rt. 1, then go south 36
miles to Cave-in-Rock State Park.
- 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 Commerce and Community
Affairs' 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.