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Illinois State Parks

USA Parks
Southern Region
Cave-In-Rock State Park
Cave-In-Rock State Park © Tracy Barnett
Cave-In-Rock State Park © Ben Prepelka
1 New State Park Rd. Box 338
Cave-In-Rock, Illinois   62919

Phone: 618-289-4325
Few natural formations are as awe-inspiring or intriguing as a cave. The deep, dark recesses immediately conjure up images of adventure, mystery, terror, robbers and pirates.

At Cave-In-Rock in southern Illinois, you can experience this fascination for yourself. Sitting atop the high bluffs overlooking the scenic Ohio River, the heavily wooded park is named for the 55-foot-wide cave that was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago. Trails winding along the riverbank offer views of riverboats, barges and other river scenes.
History of the Area
The actual history of this imposing natural phenomenon is colorful and provocative. The first European explorer to encounter it was M. de Lery of France, who in 1729 called it caverne dans Le Roc. It was a conspicuous curiosity frequently mentioned by later travelers in diaries and journals.

Following the Revolutionary War, this immense recess came to serve as the ideal lair for outlaws, bandits and river pirates who preyed on the people traveling along the Ohio River.One of the most ambitious of these ruthless malefactors was Samuel Mason. Once an officer in George Washington?s Revolutionary Army, in 1797 he converted the cavern into a tavern which he called the Cave-In-Rock.

From this apparently innocent and inviting position, Mason would dispatch his cohorts upriver to befriend unwary and bewildered travelers with offers of help and guidance. As they neared the cave, these henchmen would disable their boats or force them toward the yawning hollow, where the hapless pilgrims would be robbed, or worse. Few victims lived to tell their story.

By the early 1800s, following the demise of the Mason Gang, the cave sheltered the even more notorious Harpe Brothers, a pair of killers fleeing execution in Kentucky. They continued their personal reign of thievery and murder in Illinois, using the cave as hideout and headquarters until they too were killed.

It?s interesting to note that the cave served as a backdrop for a scene in the movie ?How The West Was Won.? The scene was a near-accurate portrayal of how, in the 18th and 19th centuries, ruthless bandits used the cave to lure unsuspecting travelers to an untimely end.

Although other desperadoes continued to take advantage of the secrecy and seclusion afforded by Cave-In-Rock, by the mid-1830s the quickening westward expansion of civilization and the steady growth in the local population and commerce had destroyed or driven out the ?river rats? and the cave began to serve as temporary shelter for other pioneers on their way west. Throughout the 19th century, this remarkable geological feature was an important landmark, prominently displayed on maps from the period.

In 1929, the State of Illinois acquired 64.5 acres for a park that since has increased to 204 acres. The well-wooded, 60-foot-high hills and the rugged bluffs along the river - commanding expansive views of the famous waterway - became Cave-In-Rock State Park.

In the words of Illinois historian John W. Allen, ?Today only the natural beauty of the historic spot remains, clothed in mystery. In the hollow silence of the cave that echoes the peaceful cooing of doves, a visitor can let a vivid imagination run riot. But he can dream little that will be beyond what actually happened.?
For a different view of Cave-In-Rock, consider a boat ride down the Ohio River. Be sure to visit the Golconda Marina located on the river near Golconda at Lusk Creek. A full-service marina, Golconda offers overnight moorage with 100 slips available, both covered and open. Slips have electric and water hookups. There is a marina service and repair, boat lifts, fuel, sanitary pump outs and dry storage. Multiple free launch ramps are available, along with parking for trailers and cars, a snack shop, gift shop, and bait and tackle shop.
On the scenic north side of the park there are camping accommodations with 34 Class A sites. They are equipped with electricity and can accommodate units up to 60-feet long. Twenty-five Class B/S tent sites are also available, and showers, restrooms and dumping stations are present in both camping areas. Contact the site superintendent or campground host for camping permits and information. Handicapped sites also are available. Firewood and grills are furnished at each campsite.
The restaurant is gaining a reputation for fine southern-style cooking and has plenty of homemade specialties on the menu. Sunday dinners feature fried chicken, roast beef with all the trimmings, southern fried catfish, marinated chicken, shrimp, steaks as well as a full short order menu along with homemade desserts. Hours are daily 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the full service restaurant. For more information, call (618) 289-4545 or write Cave-In-Rock Restaurant and Lodging, Cave-In-Rock, IL 62919.
Nearby Accommodations
Cottages and Cabins
Enjoy a getaway to nearby Southern Illinois with Shawnee National Forest Cabins. Rustic log cabin rentals with modern comforts such as hot tubs, Wifi and satellite TV located near Garden of the God in the Shawnee National Forest.
14.3 miles from park*
River Rose Inn Bed Breakfast - Elizabethtown, IL
BBs / Inns
Built in 1914 in a picturesque rivertown, the River Rose Inn Bed Breakfast is unique and gracious with spectacular views of the dazzling Ohio River. Enjoy our luxurious accommodations and our gourmet breakfasts. Relax in the formal living room or cozy parlor on the second floor. Swim in the inground pool or enjoy the private jacuzzi spa.
8.3 miles from park*
Rim Rock's Dogwood Cabins - Elizabethtown, IL
Cottages and Cabins
Southern Illinois Cabins with all amenities, surrounded by The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. All cabins have air conditioning, heat, kitchen including stove, frig, microwave, coffee maker, toaster bathroom with shower, screened in porch, electric fireplace, satellite tv with HBO and DVD, all linens, cookware, plates, utensil, outside grill and picnic table.
8.3 miles from park*
Cottages and Cabins
LARGE 2 and 3 bedroom private CABINS located near many of the major ATTRACTIONS of the Shawnee National FOREST and the surrounding Southern ILLINOIS area. All cabins offer incredible VALUE as they are fully furnished with everything needed including full kitchens with cookware, microwave, liens, fire pits and wood, outdoor grill, satellite TV and even FREE internet. Open all seasons
19.4 miles from park*
Timber Ridge Outpost Cabins - Elizabethtown, IL
Cottages and Cabins
Come back to a simpler time when families played games together in the evenings and sat on the porch talking into the night. Enjoy some southern hospitality while staying in a real Log Cabin or a one-of-a-kind luxurious Tree House
8.9 miles from park*
A pond is available for fishing, and the Ohio River provides excellent fishing, boating and water sport opportunities. The river can be accessed directly from two launching ramps with adjacent parking on the western edge of the park. The site superintendent and park rangers can provide details on fishing licenses and the rules and regulations for fishing and boating on the river.

For the day visitor, ample parking is provided by five separate lots. There are three developed playground areas for children; and shaded picnic areas situated throughout the park provide tables, grills, water hydrants and drinking fountains. There are four large picnic shelters for group gatherings and firewood is available on request from the park attendants.
In addition to the natural splendor of the cave itself, the park contains two established hiking trails of moderate difficulty, plus numerous unmarked trails for exploration and appreciation of tranquil forests and inspiring views.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
April 10 Just another Hole in the wall. by Greg Peters
It was bigger & better then I expected but if you plan on a picnic better bring your on stuff no were for miles to buy anything.
September 19 nice clean friendly sceenery by lori
stayed at park campgrounds very nice clean spots with pads, electric, showers toilets and video surv. rangers very helpful and friendly. town charming. Ride ferry over to amish country- bout 20 or 30 min to get supplys, gas etc so be prepared - nice rock paths to walk the river nice rest spots with a view if you are at the end of shawnee its a must to see
June 15 lost DS game system and games by Tina
Yesterday. 14 June 2014, my Grand daughter and I visited this park. We stopped at the playground near the restrooms. Brittiney had her DS in her hand and layed it down on the ground by the swing she was using. When we left she forgot it until we stopped to look at the cave. We returned to the playground and hunted but could not find her DS. We left her name and number at the reasturant close by on the chance that whoever pcked it up decides to return it to her.


Cave-in-Rock State Park is located on the Ohio River in Hardin County, Illinois. To reach the park from the northern parts of Illinois, proceed south on I-57 exiting at Marion, IL, on highway 13 east. Go east through Marion and Harrisburg to the intersection of Illinois 1 and 13. Turn south 22 miles on highway 1 to Cave-in-Rock State Park. From the south, take highway 90 from Marion, KY., and cross the Cave-in-Rock ferry and follow directional signs to the park entrance. From the southeast take I-24 west from the I-24 bridge to exit #16, then go 38 miles east on Illinois highway 146 to the park. From Southern Indiana, proceed through Evansville, IN traveling West on highway 62 and Illinois highway 141 to Illinois Rt. 1, then go south 36 miles to Cave-in-Rock State Park.


Illinois State Parks