As we turn the calendar from October to November, there’s only a finite amount of time left to enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage before the last leaves lose grasp of the trees they’re attached to. Whether it’s a hike, a drive or a boat of some kind – there are several ways to have a great socially distant fall adventure that doesn’t cost any money.
When it comes to getting in the car and following the amazing colors, it doesn’t get much better than going for a drive down Bluff Road through Monroe and Randolph Counties. As you head south - the orange, yellow and red covered trees lining the bluffs above make it hard to concentrate on the road at times. Not to mention, there are plenty of places to get out and stretch your legs for a hike – offering even more amazing views from fantastic observation points. Salt Lick Point Land and Water Preserve in Valmeyer as well as Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve near Fults both provide awesome views from high vantage points to look out over the colorful landscape. We would HIGHLY recommend bringing a camera! A little further down Bluff Road lies Prairie du Rocher, home of Fort de Chartres. The Fort is another great place to stop as you’re headed south, and it’s home to the oldest building in the state of Illinois – as they powder magazine is 300 years old this year! Not far from Fort de Chartres there is Fort Kaskaskia which overlooks the Mississippi River and may provide some of the best views on the entire trip!
Another great spot to take in the fall foliage is the iconic Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Madison County. It is an easy, paved trail for anyone with strollers or wheelchairs to easily walk on and enjoy the views. There are wonderfully colored trees that line both sides of the Mississippi River, and not to mention – the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge has plenty Route 66 history.
For those who would rather jump in a boat and enjoy nature’s beauty from the water, there are PLENTY of places to do that in ILLINOSouth. Carlyle Lake in Clinton County is one of those places that you can hop in everything from a paddle boat to a sailboat and simply enjoy the reds, yellows and oranges that dot the shoreline. There are also over 20 miles of bike trails at Carlyle Lake if you’d rather pedal and gaze at the trees. East Fork Lake in Olney is another AMAZING place to peep the foliage, whether it’s in a boat or on the walking trails. And don’t forget, to watch out for their signature White Squirrels! Pro tip – there has been a family of four White Squirrels playing around Miller Grove Park, so bring your camera. If kayaking down a river is more your speed, there are a two in ILLINOISouth that people venture down all the time! The Embarras River cuts through several counties in our Eastern Region including Cumberland, Clark, Jasper, Crawford, and Lawrence before connecting with the Wabash River on the Indiana border. There are plenty of access points to the river (especially in Jasper County), and the views can’t be beat. The other river that folks love to kayak down is the Kaskaskia River, which flows through Fayette, Clinton, Washington, St. Clair, Monroe and Randolph Counties before connecting with the Mississippi.
For those who didn’t know, November 17th is National Take a Hike Day. One of the best places for a hike and lovely autumnal colors is Beall Woods State Park in Wabash County. Beall Woods is one of the last remaining tracts of virgin timber east of the Mississippi, which means these trees can be as big as twelve stories tall. No matter where you choose to take in the fall colors, we hope you have a blast in ILLINOISouth!
Beall Woods - @phillipsfamilyadventureteam on IG
Kayaking on Embarras River - Lisa Williams