The Bald Knob Cross Visitor Center, Alto Pass, IL now has an observation deck, to give visitors the best view it has to offer.
Several area businesses and anonymous donors from across the region donated time, money, materials and expertise to make it happen.
Executive director Teresa Gilbert, says the cross raised about $4,000 to put toward the project, but more than $30,000 more came in to make the observation deck a reality.
“If you look to the right, then you can see the top of the Cape Girardeau Bridge. You can see a section of the Mississippi River, you can see Ware, Illinois. You look more to the left and you can see Anna, Jonesboro, that area, so you can see a long way,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert says the generosity of its donors helped finish three other projects, including keeping the structure lit a night, a history corner at the visitor center and electrical work.
Solar Red wine was released to commemorate Ozzy’s upcoming performance during a Solar Eclipse at Moonstock2017. Solar Red is offered by the individual bottle and in an autographed Collector’s Edition.
Solar Red is a medium bodied dry red wine made from a blend of high quality Zinfandel and Syrah grapes. Solar Red contains fruity notes of fig, plum, cherry and cranberry jam. This particular red also has some earthy characteristics and a backbone of oak while finishing with a slightly spicy black pepper taste. Buy Now
Beautiful rolling hills and woods surround star-shaped Lake Murphysboro and provide a wonderful backdrop for boating, fishing, picnicking, camping and hiking. This 1,022-acre state park has been used by people since pre-historic Native Americans lived in small, temporary camps and hunted big game. Interest in the area as a public recreational park began in the 1930s with the State of Illinois buying the land for the Division of Fisheries in 1948. The 145-acre lake with 7.5 miles of shoreline was created in 1950 with the creation of a 600-foot dam across Indian Creek. Soon after its completion, Lake Murphysboro was stocked with breeder-size and yearling-size largemouth bass. In the fall of 1951, redear sunfish were introduced, followed by bluegill the next spring. Channel catfish are also frequently stocked. To maintain a healthy fish population, submerged vegetation and water draw downs are used to keep the number of small panfish down. In 1955 the land was transferred to the Division of Parks and Memorials in 1955 and today is maintained as a state park by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Fishing is one of the primary attractions of Lake Murphysboro State Park. Anglers can fish from the bank, on the water, or a handicapped accessible fishing pier. Boaters can bring their own boat or rent one near the boat launch. The outboard motor limit is 10 Horsepower.
There are a number of shaded picnic areas located in convenient locations around the lake. For larger groups there are two shelter houses. There are well-equipped campsites located in scenic areas of the park providing the perfect opportunity for extended stays. There are 54 trailer sites that are equipped with electricity and 20 Class B tent sites. There are three Class A handicapped sites and one Class B/S handicapped site available. A three-mile designated trail offers hikers the opportunity to enjoy the plant, animal and bird life of the park up close. The wooded hills include groves of majestic oak and hickory trees, as well as most other types of trees. Patches of native, wild orchids may be found in the wooded areas of the park. Yellow Lady’s Slipper, Showy, Purple Fringeless, Twayblade, Puttyroot, Coralroot and Ladies’ Tresses are just some of the varieties to watch for. The variety of orchids makes it possible to find blooming plants throughout the year. For those who prefer to explore nature on their own, several paths crisscross through the hills and woods of the park. Lake Murphysboro also includes an archery range located in the northwest section of the park.
For area information and lodging, including motels, cabin, cottage and Bed & Breakfasts contact Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau
Make your way to the Luna Gallery inside the Yellow Moon Cafe and anthill gallery & vintage curiosities, both in Cobden, IL, for a wonderful Spring Oil Paintings exhibit by Molly Cranch which are on display through April 30, 2017
Molly is a fine artist and illustrator influenced by nature, meditation and motherhood. Navigating the line between abstraction and realism, her paintings that are now on display at anthill gallery and The Yellow Moon Cafe’s Luna Gallery are infused with light, air, and atmosphere. Subjects include complex botanical forms, delicate gestural renderings of birds and other small creatures.
Enjoy locally sourced spring produce for lunch at the Yellow Moon Cafe. In the evening the intimate atmosphere makes a perfect evening of good food, enthusiastic people and great music.
Shop anthill gallery for a variety of other vintage curiosities for sale.
If you haven’t been winter hiking in Southern Illinois, you should. We have very mild weather during the winter and it’s the perfect opportunity to get outside. There are no bugs on the trails, the crowds are very thin, the temperature is great, and some of the overlooks are more spectacular because you can see further without the leaves. Try to select a trail, though, that’s interesting without the greenery, such as one with bluffs or waterfalls. Quetil Trail is an easy trail to access from Alto Pass.
Alto Pass is a tiny town in Southern Illinois, right off highway 127. It’s claim to fame include the Bald Knob Cross (an 111 ft white cross that has additional great scenic views) and Alto Pass Vineyards (the first winery in Southern Illinois).
Following signs from Alto Pass for the “scenic overview,” there’s a picnic shelter and a cliff line to walk along with stunning views. Off to the South, you can see the giant Bald Knob Cross. The scenic overview is called “Cliff View Park” and is one of the best overlooks in Southern Illinois.
Reprinted from Friends of the Cache Jan/Feb 2016 Newsletter. To find out more about the Friends, visit www.friendsofthecache.org
Heron Pond, near Belknap IL is a ‘must see’ in the Cache River Wetlands.
Visit in every season.
Belknap, in southern Johnson County, was originally called Morgan’s Mill. Laid out along the route of the Vincennes and Cairo Railroad in 1873, the town may have been named after William Belknap, Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant. But, a more colorful legend involves sawmill owner George Morgan, who often sold logs to James Bell, floating them down the Cache River to the Bell Lumber Company near Ullin. Whenever the waters of the Cache were too low to float logs, Morgan would start up his mill and do sawing of his own. These slack periods for the Ullin mill became known as “Bell’s naps.”
By 1900, Belknap had become one of the county’s busiest industrial centers, with a population of 800. Farmers from miles around brought their grain to the flour mill built in 1877. The town’s heyday ended when the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad bypassed Belknap and was routed through nearby Forman in 1910.
Today, Belknap is the home to the headquarters of the Cache River State Natural Area. The little town is bordered on its north by the Cache’s crown jewel, the Heron Pond Nature Preserve. It is also a key stop along the Tunnel Hill State Trail, which stretches for 45 miles from Harrisburg to Karnak.
Heron Pond floating boardwalk in the Spring
What can I say about winter, it’s cold (kind of), wet, muddy, and sometimes hard to get around in. It’s also the perfect time to enjoy the peace and quiet in the woods, see a multitude of vibrant and industrious woodpeckers, enjoy the landscape, and look for hidden surprises like the early emergence of the Harbinger of Spring.
Ooooooh, the sheer delight at finding one of these tiny beauties! Those microscopic flowers make my heart sing! Also called, Salt and Pepper, these are the first of the spring ephemerals to say “Hello”; however, you need to look very closely as they are often hidden under leaf litter. To find them in the park, try the Trillium Trail under the large Cottonwood on the left hand side of the parking lot. You can usually find these blooming as early as late February.
Not a plant person? How about the prehistoric sounding call of the Pileated Woodpecker to add a little excitement to a winter hike. The largest woodpecker in North America, the Pileated is one of my favorite Giant City residents. You can listen to one here on the Cornell site.
Now is also the perfect time of the year to investigate a few of the more “hidden” spots in the park. Some of the most stunning sandstone to be found is located along the west edge of the 12 mile equestrian trail. The colors are extraordinarily bright and the darker bands (iron-oxide) provide a striking outline. The trail is closed to horses from November until May, but is open to hikers. Stop in the Visitor Center and we can show you how to get there
On warmer days in winter, you may get a glimpse of a butterfly…..yes, a butterfly! The Mourning Cloak will occasionally emerge from hibernation on those unusual warm winter days that we periodically get in Southern Illinois. Sometimes they look a little rough around the edges, but I think we may too if we slept outside all winter.
Don’t let the winter blues get you down! There is much to be seen outside this time of year and for me, nothing removes a winter funk faster than a hike or walk in the woods. Why not grab a thermos of something hot and head out to Giant City.