IllinoisCavernAfter being closed for a decade, Illinois Caverns State Natural Area is back open to the public. Located in Monroe County, this underground wonder includes an impressive array of cave formations like stalactites, stalagmites and more.

Illinois Caverns is the only commercially operated cave in Illinois. It originally opened in 1901 and passed through various owners before being sold to the state in 1985.

Due to concerns about white-nose syndrome, a disease that effects bats, the caves were closed to the public in 2011. Recent research, however, showed that human visitation did not promote the spread of the disease, leading the Department of Natural Resources to reopen the park to visitors this summer.

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River OtterNorth American river otters were once common throughout Illinois. This species of otter is the largest member of the weasel family, and they reside in rivers, streams and lakes throughout much of the eastern and northwestern United States. While native to Illinois, their population was greatly reduced after Europeans arrived in the 16th century.

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Grant ParkGrant Park, proudly referred to as “Chicago’s front yard,” is a 313-acre public park located right in the heart of the city’s central business district. It is home to notable features like Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum Campus.

Chicago officially designated the land as a park in 1844 under the name of Lake Park. It was renamed for President Ulysses S. Grant in 1901. The park was expanded through land reclamation, with several expansions utilizing excavations from a freight tunnel network under the city.

In the 1910s and 1920s, the sites for the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History and Shedd Aquarium were parceled out, creating what is today known as the Museum Campus. Additionally, Grant Park holds many pieces of public art, including a statue of Abraham Lincoln, the sculptural installation “Agora,” and “Cloud Gate,” also known as The Bean.

The park annually hosts some of Chicago’s biggest festivals, including Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival.

A centerpiece of Chicago, Grant Park provides the city with vast outdoor space and a place to gather for a diverse range of events. To learn more about the park, events and hours of operation, visit the Chicago Park District website.

 

Ferne Clyffe State Park Southern Illinois boasts dozens of unique state parks and recreational areas, including the scenic Ferne Clyffe State Park, which covers 2,430 acres in the heart of the Shawnee Hills.

Impressive rock formations can be seen from almost all of the park trails, but two of the best-known sights are Hawks' Cave, a 150-foot-long shelter bluff, and a 100-foot-tall intermittent waterfall on the Big Rocky Hollow Trail.

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waterfall PRDuring these winter months, it is hard to get outside. That’s why the featured park of the month has it all, and Starved Rock State Park showcases the best of nature that Illinois has to offer. Right outside Utica, many trails give visitors the opportunity to see natural habitats and beauty during these cold winter months, and with less people coming to the park, the noise pollution decreases and allows for wildlife to flourish.

Walking along the Illinois River, you will see massive sandstone bluffs with many wooded trails perfect for hiking. Some lead to scenic spots like a massive frozen waterfall. Don’t forget to bring a pair of binoculars because this is the prime season to spot bald eagles, turkey, deer, and many other animals that inhabit the Illinois wilderness.

Starved Rock State Park continues to be one of the state’s most popular natural attractions. With more than 2.4 million people visiting the park last year, it continues to provide examples of the beauty that lies within Illinois. While 68% of the parks visitors are from May to October, the winter months prove to be just as breathtaking to explore and discover on your visit to Starved Rock State Park.

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