Explore Shawnee Forest Country!
Featuring ancient cypress-tupelo swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, sandstone bluffs and limestone glades, the Cache River Wetlands is a rich and diverse area that provides habitat for many unique and fascinating plants and animals. It is a place to enjoy hiking, birding, kayaking and canoeing, hunting, fishing, photography and learning about the natural world. With its wooded hills and cypress swamps, it would be easy to mistake this magical place for Louisiana rather than Illinois.
The diversity of landforms, animals and plant life here is a result of the intersection of four distinct ecological regions in southern Illinois. Home to a complex web of organisms, including some of the oldest trees east of the Mississippi, the Cache River Watershed contains three National Natural Landmarks and has been designated a "Wetland of International Importance." It harbors over 90 percent of the state’s high-quality swamp and wetland communities and provides habitat for more than 100 of Illinois’ threatened and endangered species.
A great first stop on your visit is the Cache River Wetlands Center. The 7,000 square-foot facility, owned and operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, offers a variety of interpretive exhibits and information about the natural and cultural history of the Cache River Wetlands. The center hosts a variety of educational programs throughout the year, and includes a wildlife viewing area and walking trails featuring both wetland and prairie communities.
Get acquainted with the unique biodiversity of the flora and fauna that live here before you set out to see it in person. Explore the interactive diorama of a wetland. Learn more about the everchanging Cache landscape, migratory birds, state champion trees through touch screen displays. And be sure to catch the award winning 12-minute orientation film, “The Enduring Cache,” which provides an excellent introduction to the region’s landscape as well as its fascinating human history.
The Cache River Wetlands Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Be sure to check in here first before you head on out on our trails. Happy exploring!
Information courtesy of Friends of the Cache River Watershed.