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  Fort Massac State Park   


South Region

1308 E. 5th Street
Metropolis, IL 62960



Boating Hiking & Tree ID Trail Interpretive Program
Camping History Picnicking
Directions 2015 Living History Schedule Park Map
Events Hunting Virtual Tour



Scenic fall view of the 1802 fort Volunteer dressed in military attire carrying the flags in parade Drummers dressed in military attire for the encampment Large gate at the entrance to the fort Displays in the Museum of American soldier uniforms and guns Scenic view of the bridge crossing the creek in the fall

Update: The 1802 Fort is closed to the public until further notice.

Experience the scenic splendor of southern Illinois with plenty of outdoor fun and time-telling events at Fort Massac State Park. Overlooking the mighty Ohio River from the southern tip of Illinois, this majestic location has been preserved and maintained since 1908, when it became Illinois’ first state park.

Today, Fort Massac is a captivating reminder of days gone by, a fascinating excursion through the entire course of American history, and the perfect place to relax in soothing natural surroundings and explore the life style of our young country.

The historic site is a replica of the 1802 American fort that was on site. The historic fort area contains two barracks, three block houses, officer quarters, well, stockade and a fraise fence. The site also has the archaeological outline of the 1757 French Fort. Aa visitors center/office complex with a museum complete the infrastructure.

Recreations of pioneer life of the 1700s take place during the annual Fort Massac Encampment and several living history weekends each year to bring the past to life, letting you experience it yourself.

With all this, and the picnicking, camping, hiking, boating and hunting opportunities available in the rest of the 1,450-acre Massac County park is an alluring, complete and self-contained family vacation spot.


The rich history of this site begins before recorded history, when native Americans undoubtedly took advantage of its strategic location overlooking the Ohio River. Legend has it that Europeans took this same advantage as early as 1540, when the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and his soldiers constructed a primitive fortification to defend themselves from hostile native attack.

The French built Fort De L’Ascension on the site in 1757, during the French and Indian War, when France and Great Britain were fighting for ultimate control of central North America. Rebuilt in 1759-60, the structure was renamed Massiac in honor of the then French Minister of Colonial Affairs, and came under fire only once, when unsuccessfully attacked by a group of Cherokee.

Following the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, the French abandoned the fort and a band of Chickasaws burned it to the ground. When Captain Thomas Stirling, commander of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, arrived to take possession, all he found was a charred ruin.

The British anglicized the name to “Massac” but, despite the counsel of their military advisers, they neither rebuilt nor regarrisoned the fort. This oversight left them vulnerable and in 1778, during the Revolutionary War, Colonel George Rogers Clark led his “Long Knives” regiment into Illinois at Massac Creek. From these he was able to capture Kaskaskia, 100 miles to the north, without firing a shot, thus taking the entire Illinois Territory for the State of Virginia and the fledgling United States.

In 1794, President George Washington ordered the fort rebuilt, and for the next 20 years it protected U.S. military and commercial interests in the Ohio Valley.

U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr and Gen. James Wilkinson, who allegedly drew up plans to personally conquer Mexico and the American southwest, met at Fort Massac during the summer of 1805. Edward Everett Hale later used the setting of Fort Massac and the Burr-Wilkinson plot as basis for his classic historical novel, “The Man Without a Country.”

Although ravaged by the New Madrid earthquake in 1811-12, the fort was again rebuilt in time to play a minor role in the War of 1812, only to be abandoned again in 1814. Local citizens dismantled the fort for timber, and by 1828 little remained of the original construction. In 1839 the city of Metropolis was platted about a mile west of the fort.

The site briefly served as a training camp early in the Civil War, marking the last time U.S. troops were stationed at the site. The fort was abandoned after a measles epidemic in 1861-62 claimed the lives of a substantial number of soldiers of the Third Illinois Cavalry and the 131st Illinois Infantry, who were using the fort as an encampment.

In 1903, through the efforts of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 24 acres surrounding the site were purchased by the state. On Nov. 5, 1908, Fort Massacwas officially dedicated as Illinois’ first state park.

Archeological and historical excavations were conducted on the site from 1939-42 and attempted again in 1966, 1970 and during 2002. In the early 1970's a replica based on the 1794 American fort at Fort Massac was reconstructed off the original site of the forts. This reconstruction was brought down in the fall of 2002, when a replica of a 1802 American fort was constructed. The original site, where all the forts were built, has the archeological outline of the 1757 French Fort.

The historic site is open to the public seven days a week. Contact the site interpreter to arrange special programs for educational, scouting, civic or tour groups.


Fort Massac is the perfect place for a picnic lunch. Tables, grills and drinking water are scattered throughout the grounds and children will enjoy the three playgrounds. Four covered picnic shelters are available: one is reservable, while the others are first-come, first-serve.


Campers enjoy Fort Massac's 50 Class A vehicular campsites, complete with electricity, a disposal station and a shower building. Tent camping, and a separate group campground also are available. Camping reservations can be made through ReserveAmerica.

Hiking | Trail Map

The park contains a 1- mile loop trail through grassy woods with the trailhead near the fort. This trail is designated as a Forest Watch Tree Identification Trail and brochures are available in the visitors' center. The 2.5-mile Hickory Nut Ridge Trail shouldn't be missed, as it takes hikers along the scenic Ohio River. The George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail is an 8.7-mile bicycle/pedestrian trail connecting the cities of Metropolis and Brookport through Massac County and Fort Massac State Park.  Approximately 4.0 miles of the trail is within the confines of Fort Massac State Park with most of the trail on a dedicated bike path and a small section using a shared roadway.

Boating and Fishing

Boating and fishing are permitted on and along the Ohio River. Anglers will find bullhead, carp, catfish, crappie, drum and largemouth bass. The boat dock and launch ramp easy river access.


Hunting is permitted for squirrel, woodcock, dove, deer (archery only) and rabbit in some parts of the park. A windsheild card may be required to hunt. Contact the park office for specific hunting dates and shooting hours.

Special Events

The unique Fort Massac Encampment is held for two days each October. This re-creation of the lifestyles and atmosphere of the late 1700s attracts more than 198,000 people. Several times throughout the year the park puts on living history weekends, where visitors can experience the past for themselves (check with the park office for specific dates). An antique car show takes place every June, in conjunction with the nationally known Superman Days in Metropolis. Interpretive Programs


Take Exit 37 off Interstate 24 into Metropolis.
.Follow the signs.


  • 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 conflicts.
  • 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.

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