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.

The park covers about 120 acres and contains a natural prairie area and nature trails in addition to the park’s main attraction: the cave.

The internal temperature of the cave is about 58 degrees year round. Visitors typically go in about three-quarters of a mile, and while most of the cave features high ceilings, visitors can expect to get dirty due to the moisture.

The cave is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Free permits, which can be obtained online or on site, are required for entry, as well as closed-toe shoes, a hardhat or helmet, and at least three flashlights.

People interested in visiting can print and fill out a free permit here or call 618-785-2555 for more information.