CAVE-IN-ROCK STATE PARK
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 views of riverboats, barges and other river scenes.
The actual history of this imposing natural phenomenon is colorful and provocative. The first European explorer to encounter it 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 serve as the ideal lair for outlaws, bandits and river pirates who preyed on the people traveling along the Ohio River.One of the most ambitious of these ruthless malefactors was Samuel Mason. Once an officer in George Washington?s Revolutionary Army, in 1797 he converted the cavern into a tavern which he called the Cave-In-Rock.
From this apparently innocent and inviting position, Mason would dispatch his cohorts upriver to befriend unwary and bewildered travelers with offers of help and guidance. As they neared the cave, these henchmen would disable their boats or force them toward the yawning hollow, where the hapless pilgrims would be robbed, or worse. Few victims lived to tell their story.
By the early 1800s, following the demise of the Mason Gang, the cave sheltered the even more notorious Harpe Brothers, a pair of killers fleeing execution in Kentucky. They continued their personal reign of thievery and murder in Illinois, using the cave as hideout and headquarters until they too were killed.
It?s interesting to note that the cave served as a backdrop for a scene in the movie ?How The West Was Won.? The scene was a near-accurate portrayal of how, in the 18th and 19th centuries, ruthless bandits used the cave to lure unsuspecting travelers to an untimely end.
Although other desperadoes continued to take advantage of the secrecy and seclusion afforded by Cave-In-Rock, 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? and the cave began to serve as temporary shelter for other pioneers on their way west. 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. But he can dream little that will be beyond what actually happened.?
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.
On the scenic north side of the park there are camping accommodations with 34 Class A sites. They are equipped with electricity and can accommodate units up to 60-feet long. Twenty-five Class B/S tent sites are also available, and showers, restrooms and dumping stations are present in both camping areas. Contact the site superintendent or campground host for camping permits and information. Handicapped sites also are available. Firewood and grills are furnished at each campsite.
The 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 as well as a full short order menu along with homemade desserts. Hours are daily 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the full service restaurant. For more information, call (618) 289-4545 or write Cave-In-Rock Restaurant and Lodging, Cave-In-Rock, IL 62919.
Cottages and Cabins
Southern Illinois Cabins with all amenities, surrounded by The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. All cabins have air conditioning, heat, kitchen including stove, frig, microwave, coffee maker, toaster bathroom with shower, screened in porch, electric fireplace, satellite tv with HBO and DVD, all linens, cookware, plates, utensil, outside grill and picnic table.
8.3 miles from park*
BBs / Inns
Built in 1914 in a picturesque rivertown, the River Rose Inn Bed Breakfast is unique and gracious with spectacular views of the dazzling Ohio River. Enjoy our luxurious accommodations and our gourmet breakfasts. Relax in the formal living room or cozy parlor on the second floor. Swim in the inground pool or enjoy the private jacuzzi spa.
8.3 miles from park*
Cottages and Cabins
LARGE 2 and 3 bedroom private CABINS located near many of the major ATTRACTIONS of the Shawnee National FOREST and the surrounding Southern ILLINOIS area. All cabins offer incredible VALUE as they are fully furnished with everything needed including full kitchens with cookware, microwave, liens, fire pits and wood, outdoor grill, satellite TV and even FREE internet. Open all seasons
19.4 miles from park*
Cottages and Cabins
Enjoy a getaway to nearby Southern Illinois with Shawnee National Forest Cabins. Rustic log cabin rentals with modern comforts such as hot tubs, Wifi and satellite TV located near Garden of the God in the Shawnee National Forest.
14.3 miles from park*
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 launching 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.