A day trip to Cave-in Rock
From 20 Day Trips in and around the Shawnee National Forest, by Larry P. Mahan and Donna J. Mahan. Used with permission.
• Cave-in-Rock State Park
• Tower Rock
Cave-in-Rock State Park consists of 204 acres of land, including wooded areas, rugged bluffs along the Ohio River, and the 55-foot-wide cave carved out of limestone rock. The famous cave is so steeped in folklore and legend that it is difficult to be certain of its true history. It is known that in 1797, Samuel Mason, an evil proprietor to be sure, converted the cavern into a tavern and subjected unwary patrons to thievery and murder. Colorful stories abound about other notorious characters said to have a connection to the cave. Whatever its history, this distinctive landmark has drawn visitors for hundreds of years.
The lure of that wide-open mouth cannot be denied. Once inside the park, the actual cave is easy to find with posted signs and a well-trodden path that follows the Ohio River shoreline. The cave is not wheelchair accessible, and there are stairs to climb at one point, but the hike is short and of moderate difficulty. Do not miss the view from any of the beautiful picnic sites atop the bluffs overlooking the river, accessible by driving the one-way mile loop in the park. Each site provides a little different perspective of the river, and all are outstanding vistas.
After spending time at the park, drive the short distance over to Tower Rock, the highest point along the Ohio River on the Illinois shore. The hike from the parking area is short but a bit steep. The trailhead is marked with a sign, and the trail is well worn by many visitors over the years. From the top of this bluff, there are several vantage points that offer a dazzling view of the Ohio River. The trail brings you right along the edge of the bluff, so watch your step.
From here, travel to Elizabethtown, a picturesque little village of about 350 people situated on the Ohio River. The oldest continuously operating Baptist church in Illinois, the First Baptist Church of Elizabethtown, can be found here. Established in 1806, the church, originally known as Big Creek Baptist Church, has served its congregation for more than 200 years and counting. The congregation has been at its present location since 1877, when the current building was dedicated. Another historic structure not to be missed is the Rose Hotel, founded in 1812 as McFarland’s Tavern and operating as a bed and breakfast at the present time. This landmark structure, overlooking the Ohio River, is owned by the state of Illinois and includes a gazebo on the well-manicured grounds as well as a gift shop that is open to the public.
Complete your day with a visit to the historic village of Rosiclare. In 1843, the discovery of lead and fluorspar began Rosiclare’s growth into the largest fluorspar mining operation in the nation at that time. Today, the American Fluorite Museum, in the former office building of the Rosiclare Lead and Fluorspar Mining Company near downtown Rosiclare, is open seasonally from May through October, Thursday through Sunday, 1–4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. There is a small admission fee to tour the museum.
Just so you know . . .
• The campground within Cave-in-Rock State Park, 1 New State Park Road, provides electricity, showers, restrooms,
and dumping stations on nicely wooded sites. Call 618-289-4325 for information.
• The Cave-in-Rock State Park Restaurant and Lodge, within the park, features family-style food and rents nearby cabins with private patio decks overlooking the Ohio River. For information, call 618-289-4545 or visit www.caveinrockkaylors.com.
• The First Baptist Church at Elizabethtown is at Market and Locust Streets. For information, call 618-287-2861.
• The Rose Hotel in Elizabethtown is at 92 Main Street. There are five guest rooms, some with balconies overlooking the Ohio River. Call 618-287-2872 for information.
• The River Rose Inn, 1 Main Street, is another bed and breakfast in Elizabethtown. It also has views of the Ohio River. Call 618-287-8811 for information.
• The American Fluorite Museum is on Main Street, PO Box 755, Rosiclare, IL, 62982. Call 618-285-3513 for information.
• The Rosiclare City Park offers a wheelchair accessible River Walk with benches for those who want to relax. The park provides shelters, picnic tables, playground equipment and a fenced-in playground.
• Rosiclare River View Campsites, in the city park, are equipped with electricity, water and boat docking facilities.
From Harrisburg to Cave-in-Rock State Park, go east on IL-13 (Poplar Street) for approximately 14 miles to IL-1. Turn right (south) on IL-1 and go 21 miles to Cave in Rock. Follow directional signs for .5 mile to the park entrance.
At the camping sign, keep right for the 1-mile driving loop, which includes the lodge, cabins and bluff vistas. Cave parking is well marked. To reach Tower Rock from downtown Cave in Rock, take W. Clay Street (Tower Rock sign) left (west) for 4.2 miles to Tower Rock entrance sign. Turn left (south), keeping left as the road winds, and continue for .8 mile to parking lot.
From Tower Rock to Elizabethtown, retrace route to entrance, turn left (west) on Tower Rock Road, and continue for 3 miles to IL-146. Turn left (southwest), continuing for 3 miles to downtown Elizabethtown.
From Elizabethtown to Rosiclare, take IL-146 west for 2.5 miles, turning left (south) on IL-34 at Rosiclare sign. Continue for 2.4 miles to entrance of American Fluorite Museum on your right.