If you think of east central Illinois
as flat farmland, you are in for a surprise as you drive into Fox
Ridge State Park. Its 2,064 acres includes steep, thickly wooded
ridges, 11 miles of rugged hiking trails and bottom ground that is
thick with hardwood trees and wildlife, located right along the
Embarras River. This is a spot of Illinois that the glaciers missed
on their ancient pass through the heartland, much like Galena in
evidently an epidemic of spring fever on the nearby campus of
Eastern Illinois University, because the trails are populated with
young people. The beauty of the scenery and the athletic challenge
of the trails no doubt draw them. I, myself, am enjoying the colors
of spring. The redwoods are bursting into bloom, along with the
serviceberries and dogwoods. A few spring flowers remain: Dutchman's
breeches, May apples and wild blue phlox.
Campers enjoy Fox Ridge State Park.
The campground includes sites that are fairly secluded, surrounded
by woods. If you don't have a tent, you can reserve one of three
rustic cabins here at the site. The cabins sleep six. They include a
double bed, bunk beds, a ceiling fan, and right outside, a picnic
table and a grill. It's rustic enough to feel like camping, but you
don't have to sleep right on the ground.
If you visit here, plan
bringing your fishing license. Not far from the campground is a
great fishing hole: Wilderness Pond. A trail that is
handicapped-accessible winds around the trail. There's even a
fishing pier that can accommodate anglers in wheelchairs.
Fishing is also special at Ridge
Lake here in the park. The lake has a secluded feel -- you reach it
by walking down 114 steps. The Illinois Natural History Survey has
been doing research at this lake for decades. In fact, it's been the
subject of continuous study longer than any other lake in the United
States. It is stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass and channel
catfish. It's open for fishing from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
When you visit, the survey researchers loan their boats to you; then
at the end of the fishing excursion, the researchers weigh and
measure your fish and hand them back to you to take home (provided
they are legal size).
While hikers enjoy the many trails
that wind along the ridges, it is the flood plain that draws my
attention, as it is populated with much of the wildlife that is
native to this park. There is quite a deer population, and many wild
turkeys strut their stuff. If you're lucky, the occasional fox can
be spotted, an illustration of how this park got its name. The birds
are astonishing as well. Eighty-three species nest here, including a
variety of woodpeckers, in the shade of sassafras, pawpaw, oak and
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Fox Ridge State Park is just a few
miles from the Lincoln Log Cabin, the last home of Abraham Lincoln's
father and stepmother. I wonder if the man who became president
walked among these towering oaks when he was young and the trees
were saplings. Historians say the Lincoln homestead here in Coles
County was a subsistence farm, where what was produced here was just
enough for the family to meet daily needs. But as I look upon the
cool beauty of the deep woods, I can't help but reflect that even if
the Lincolns were poor when it came to finances, they were rich in
the beauty of Illinois.
Directions: From Interstate 57, take
the Route 16 exit east to Charleston. Stay on Route 16 all the way
through Charleston to the intersection of Route 16 and Route 130.
Turn right (south) and go seven miles.
From I-70, take the exit for Route
130 north. Go approximately 11 miles.
available at the park:
- Acorn Avenue - Self Guided Nature
- Summer Prairie & Roadside Flowers
- Trees & Shrubs at FRSP
- Spring Flowers at FRSP
- Fox Ridge State Park Bird List.
the state parks:
- April 23 -- "Wandering Among
Wildflowers," Giant City State Park
- April 23 and 24 -- Intertribal
powwow, Wildlife Prairie State Park
- April 24 -- Songbirds and coffee
program, Dickson Mounds Museum
- April 24 -- Owl program, Hennepin
Canal Parkway State Park
- April 29 -- Dedication, Cache
River visitor center, 1:30 p.m.
- Spring catchable trout season
opened April 2 at 5 a.m.
- Youth turkey season, North Zone,
April 2-3; first turkey season, South Zone, April 4-8.
- 3rd Kentucky Infantry, Company F,
living history, at Fort Massac State Park
- Unnecessary mowing of grasses
used for nesting wildlife should stop (April 1-Aug. 1)
Department of Natural Resources news release]