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Illinois' Best State Parks

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Cache River State Natural Area (Southern Illinois)
This large state-owned and managed area is 10,430 acres and is composed of two distinct<o:p> management units including the Little Black Slough and Lower Cache situated on Cache River in Johnson and Pulaski counties in Southern Illinois. Lower Cache is best known for its remnant examples of high quality wetland natural communities which were once prominent in the Cache River valley. Most striking examples include bald cypress and tupelo gum swamps with trees more than 1,000 years old; native oaks and hickory trees grow in the flat woods and wet forests next to the swamps. Little Black Slough is known for its cypress and tupelo swamps and rich mixed hardwood floodplain forests as well as upland woods with small patches of limestone barrens. Visitors can expect to see many plants and animals native to Southern Illinois including a blending of northern and southern species. The National Park Service has registered two National Natural Landmarks within the Cache River Natural Area. This area is nationally significant because it contains true southern swamps at the northern portion of their range. The area contains 39 state-threatened or endangered plant and animal species and eleven state champion trees. The site offers trail hiking and canoeing. It’s a nature lover’s paradise.

Pere Marquette State Park (West Central Illinois<o:p>)
A nature lover’s paradise, Pere Marquette is famous for its bald eagles during the winter and exceptional beauty of its fall colors. The park of 7,895 acres overlooks a wide expanse of the Mississippi River and was named for Father Jacques Marquette, a French missionary who, in 1673, was among the first group of Europeans under the leadership of Louis Jolliet to reach the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. A large white cross stands just east of the park entrance commemorating their historic landing. The natural splendor of the region and its rich history of animal and human habitation goes back eons. Fossils found in the strata stripped bare by thousands of years of river current reveal its history. Prehistoric use of the park dates back at least 10,000 years. During this time, Native American lifeways changed from nomadic hunters and gatherers to sedentary agriculturists. The park has been the subject of numerous archaeological studies including the present location of the park lodge. Although no historic Native American sites are documented in the park, it was known that the area was occupied by the Illini Confederacy when Marquette and Jolliet traveled the Mississippi River in 1673. The park offers a variety of year-round recreational opportunities such as horseback riding, camping, fishing, boating and hiking.

Chain O’Lakes State Park (Northern Illinois)
Located in the heart of Illinois’ largest concentration of natural lakes, the park is a water-oriented recreation area with outstanding opportunities for boaters, anglers and skiers. The park borders three natural lakes - Grass, Marie and Nippersink - and the Fox River that connects the other seven lakes - Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead which make up the chain. In addition, the park contains a 44 acre lake within its boundaries. The 2,793 acre state park and adjoining conservation area are located in the northeastern corner of the state in both McHenry and Lake counties. The Chain O’Lakes area was inhabited by central Algonquian Tribes when Europeans first arrived in the mid-1600s. The predominant tribes in the region at the time were the Miami, Mascouten and Potawatomi. These tribes led a semi-mobile lifestyle and grew corn, hunted, fished and gathered wild plant foods. Jolliet and Marquette passed through what is the park today in 1673 as they traveled the Fox River during their Illinois explorations.

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