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  Cave-In-Rock - State Park   

   
South Region

#1 New State Park Rd.
Box 338
Cave-In-Rock, IL 62919
618.289.4325

618.289-4545 (Lodge)
E-Mail
Rock Formations at Park
Boating Hiking Marina
Camping History Picnicking
Dining Lodge Virtual Tour
Directions Local Attractions  

 

Few 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.

At Cave-In-Rock 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

The 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.

The 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 destinations.  

One 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 story.

By 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.

Although 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.

In 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.”

Lodge

Cave-In-Rock Restaurant 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.

Dining

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.

Hiking

In addition 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.

Picnicking

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 and grills, Four large picnic shelters are available for group gatherings.

Boating and Fishing

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 river.

Camping

On the scenic north side of the park are camping accommodations with 34 Class A sites that rent for $20 a night, and $30 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.

Marina

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.

Local Attractions

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.

Directions

Cave-in-Rock State 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 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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