As summer begins, there is no better time to enjoy Illinois’ parks and the many activities that are available in warmer months. With its well-maintained infrastructure, shady trees and miles of trails, Illini State Park is a classic Illinois summer destination. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ website, “Illini State Park is the type of park you think of when you think of big picnics and family gatherings.”

Located along the Illinois River in Marseilles, Illini State Park is an ideal Northwestern Illinois location for enjoying the spring and summer weather. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps renovated portions of the nearby Marstawa Country Club, adding them to the park. This means that there is significant, solid infrastructure in place for outdoor activities including camping, picnics and youth events.

Other recreational spaces include a baseball diamond and numerous horseshoe pits. During the warmer months, a concession stand serving food, drinks and ice cream opens in the park.

Illini State Park is home to hickory, ash, walnut, elm, cottonwood, oak and maple trees. During spring and summer, visitors can spot blooming wildflowers, white-tailed deer, squirrels, opossums, beavers, raccoon, groundhogs, waterfowl and songbirds.

The river has an ample supply of crappie, bass, bluegill, catfish, carp and many other species. A boat ramp is available, but boaters should be aware that the park is close to the Marseilles Lock and Dam and that barge traffic can be heavy.

There is something for everyone at Illini State Park. The opportunities for good times grow as summer comes to Illinois. Plan your trip to Illini State Park today!

Solar eclipseOn Aug. 21, the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States in nearly 40 years will occur, and Southern Illinois will offer a front row seat. The point of the eclipse’s greatest duration will occur over the Shawnee National Forest.


A solar eclipse happens when the moon blocks the sun. The August eclipse will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina and will be the first one in nearly 100 years to do so.


Eclipse path over IllinoisA total solar eclipse occurs much more infrequently than partial eclipses. While partial eclipses occur between two and five times each year, a total eclipse only occurs approximately once every year and a half, though often it is only visible over the ocean.


Communities across Southern Illinois are celebrating the eclipse in a variety of ways. Southern Illinois University Carbondale has partnered with NASA and the Adler Planetarium to offer a day of events and eclipse viewing in the football stadium. Carterville is hosting a Moonstock festival with Ozzy Osborne headlining. Additionally, there are 12 Illinois state parks within the portion of the state where the eclipse will be visible.

It is March in southern Illinois and there is no better time to fish at Crab Orchard Lake and National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Carbondale. At Crab Orchard Lake, mid-to-late March is crappie season as the fish travel through the lake for their yearly spawning frenzy.

But fishing is not the only point of interest in Crab Orchard Lake, just as Crab Orchard Lake is not the only point of interest in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Preserve. Vacationers also go boating, swimming, picnicking, and camping along the lake, which sits on the northern edge of a national wildlife preserve.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Preserve is home to a wide array of wildlife that call Illinois home. March is an ideal month to visit, because it is between winter, when bald eagles build massive nests in the trees, and spring, when wild turkeys strut through the park displaying their plumage.

In addition to a national wildlife preserve, the grounds also include a national wilderness area, one of just 750 in the United States. National wilderness areas are the most stringently-protected pieces of land as classified by the federal government. Because of its protected status, Crab Orchard National Wilderness Area may only be entered on foot, by canoe, or on horseback to preserve the land.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Preserve shares its southern border with Shawnee National Forest, the only national forest in Illinois. Shawnee National Forest has approximately 280,000 acres of federally managed land with ample room for hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and much more.

Warm weather is fast approaching in Illinois, and the southern portion of the state is the place to be for anyone who appreciates the outdoors.

Located in Carroll County alongside the Mississippi River, Mississippi Palisades State Park is an excellent location for outdoor activities during any month of the year, even the winter months.

It is a little known fact that February is an especially good time of year for bird watching in Illinois. Mississippi Palisades State Park is home to about 200 different species of birds. Species include golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and purple finches. In recent years, the Bald Eagle population of Carroll County has climbed, making Mississippi Palisades State Park an ideal place to spot the majestic birds during January and February. The park is also a destination for other popular winter activities such as cross country skiing, sledding and ice fishing.

During the warmer months, Mississippi Palisades State Park attracts visitors with fifteen miles of hiking trails that follow the same paths that have been used for centuries to traverse the steep cliffs that line the river. The park is also known for its first-rate picnic and camping facilities, open May through October, which were constructed with great care by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s.

Due to natural erosion along the Mississippi River, there are many interesting geological features to explore along the palisades. These formations are visible from the river, where boating and canoeing are popular. Some rock formations along the palisades have been designated as national landmarks by the U.S. Interior Department.

During the fall and spring, Mississippi Palisades State Park is a destination for hunters. The wild turkey archery season in spring and the three-day firearm deer season in November attract hunters to this striking plot of land along the river.

For birding, hunting, fishing, hiking, boating and much more, the natural beauty and diverse, local wildlife of Mississippi Palisades State Park never disappoint.

 

Cherry Mine Fan HouseA tragic coal mine fire in Bureau County 107 years ago was the impetus behind Illinois becoming a national leader on workers’ compensation and workplace safety laws.

In 1909, the Cherry Mine in Bureau County employed more than 500 men and produced 1,500 tons of coal daily to fuel locomotives for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. Immigrant mining families flocked to Cherry for steady employment in what was considered one of the safest mines in the country at the time.

On Nov. 13 that year, a kerosene torch dripped hot oil on a cart of hay for the mules that worked inside the mine. The hay smoldered unnoticed and a blaze eventually erupted, blocking the escape of many of the miners working that day. When all was said and done, 259 of them perished from burns and asphyxiation, leaving behind 500 fatherless children and 160 widows.

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