FOX RIDGE STATE PARK
Fox Ridge State Park, just 8 miles south of Charleston in east-central Illinois is known for its steep, thickly wooded ridges, broad, lush valleys and miles of rugged, scenic hiking trails and covers 2,064 acres.
In sharp contrast to the flat prairies of most of this section of Illinois, Fox Ridge is set amidst rolling hills along the forested bluffs of the Embarras ("Ambraw") River.
At any time of year, Fox Ridge State Park is a great place to visit. In winter, the snow-softened ridges are alive with birds and animals. In the spring, a panoramic blanket of multi-hued wildflowers and blooming, budding trees celebrate the resurgence of growth. By summer the dense vegetation and new generation of wildlife are thriving in the sun, and autumn brings its brilliant display of color as nature enhances the woodlands with yellow, red, purple and orange.
Arrowheads and artifacts uncovered in this area indicate habitation by prehistoric Native American cultures. Early historic tribes included the Piankashaw and the Illinois, both of whom were pushed out when the Kickapoo migrated into the region from Wisconsin in the late 1600s.
European settlers in the area originally were centered around the Embarras River, which provided their main source of transportation, fishing, trapping, and, of course, water. Before the development of the railroad, much of the economy of the area also depended on the river, where flat boats carried livestock and manufacturing materials downstream to the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi rivers and on to New Orleans and Gulf of Mexico.
In the late 1930s, the State of Illinois took over management and ownership of Fox Ridge, then a small parcel of land, and residents of the Charleston area helped preserve and develop it as a state park. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed a residence/workshop complex, a Natural History Survey laboratory, 4 miles of hiking trails, a large brick pavilion and a dam and spillway which created the 12-acre Ridge Lake.
Ridge Lake, completed in 1941 and currently administered by the Illinois Natural History Survey in Urbana, is used for the study of lakes, ponds and streams to improve fishing in Illinois waters. Studies at the lake (the first at which Natural History Survey technicians were able to control the water level) have included investigations of the effects on resident fish populations of lake drawdowns, supplemental feeding of bluegill and channel catfish and introduction of supplemental predators such as the muskellunge and walleye. These constitute the most thorough and longest continuous fish studies in the United States.
To further enhance the development of the park, the Fox Ridge Foundation was founded and dedicated to the improvement and promotion of the area. Governed by local citizens interested in the park's future, the foundation sponsors several annual events, publishes a quarterly newsletter and organizes and administers fund drives for specific or general park improvements. Supported by the general public through membership dues and donations, the foundations is a tax-exempt charitable organization. For further information contact the park office or write to the Fox Ridge Foundation, P.O. Box 714, Charleston, IL, 61920.
For longer stays there is a Class A, 43 site, Camp area with showers, a group tent camp area, 3 "Rent-A-Camp" Cabins (with bunks for six, electricity, table, chairs and a deck). Picnic tables, cooking grills, drinking water, toilet facilities and a sanitary dumping stations are located in all campgrounds. The shower buildings are closed by November 1st (may be earlier if bad weather) and reopen May 1st (may be earlier - weather depending). Reservations are available.