Fort Massac State Park '' © Amanda Oliver
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USA Parks
Southern Region
Fort Massac State Park
1308 E. 5th Street
Metropolis, Illinois   62960

Phone: 618-524-4712
Reservations: 618-524-4712
Fort Massac State Park
© 2010 Amanda Oliver Photography

Fort Massac State Park
'The Sun rises on Fort Massic'
© all rights reserved


Early morning view on the grounds of Fort Massic

Fort Massac State Park
© 2010 Amanda Oliver Photography

Fort Massac State Park
© 2010 Amanda Oliver Photography

Experience the scenic splendor of Southern Illinois with plenty of outdoor fun and time-telling events at Fort Massac State Park. Overlooking the mighty Ohio River from the southern tip of Illinois, this majestic location has been preserved and maintained since 1908, when it became Illinois' first state park.

Today, Fort Massac is a captivating reminder of days gone by, a fascinating excursion through the entire course of American history, and the perfect place to relax in soothing natural surroundings and explore life as it was lived when our country was young.

The historic site is a replica of the 1802 American fort that was on site. The historic fort area contains 2 barracks, 3 block hourses, officer quarters, well, stockade along with a fraise fence. The site also has the archaeological outline of the 1757 French Fort. There is also a visitors center/office complex along with an area for the museum.

Actual re-creations of pioneer life of the 1700s during the annual Fort Massac Encampment and several living history weekends each year bring the past to life, letting you experience it yourself.

With all this, and the picnicking, camping, hiking, boating and hunting opportunities available in the rest of the 1,450-acre area, Fort Massac State Park is an alluring, complete and self-contained family vacation spot.
History of the Area
The rich history of this site begins before recorded history, when native Americans undoubtedly took advantage of its strategic location overlooking the Ohio River. Legend has it that Europeans took this same advantage as early as 1540, when the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and his soldiers constructed a primitive fortification here to defend themselves from hostile native attack.

The French built Fort De L'Ascension on the site in 1757, during the French and Indian War, when France and Great Britain were fighting for ultimate control of central North America. Rebuilt in 1759-60, the structure was renamed Massiac in honor of the then French Minister of Colonial Affairs, and came under fire only once, when unsuccessfully attacked by a group of Cherokee.

Following the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, the French abandoned the fort and a band of Chickasaws burned it to the ground. When Captain Thomas Stirling, commander of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, arrived to take possession, all he found was a charred ruin.

The British anglicized the name to "Massac" but, despite the counsel of their military advisers, they neither rebuilt nor regarrisoned the fort. This oversight left them vulnerable and in 1778, during the Revolutionary War, Colonel George Rogers Clark led his "Long Knives" regiment into Illinois at Massac Creek and was able to capture Kaskaskia, 100 miles to the north, without firing a shot-thus taking the entire Illinois Territory for the State of Virginia and the fledgling United States.

In 1794, President George Washington ordered the fort rebuilt, and for the next 20 years it protected U.S. military and commercial interests in the Ohio Valley.

U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr and Gen. James Wilkinson, who allegedly drew up plans to personally conquer Mexico and the American southwest, met at Fort Massac during the summer of 1805. Edward Everett Hale later used the setting of Fort Massac and the Burr-Wilkinson plot as basis for his classic historical novel, "The Man Without a Country."

Although ravaged by the New Madrid earthquake in 1811-12, the fort was again rebuilt in time to play a minor role in the War of 1812, only to be abandoned again in 1814. Local citizens dismantled the fort for timber, and by 1828 little remained of the original construction. In 1839 the city of Metropolis was platted about a mile west of the fort.

The site served briefly as a training camp during the early years of the Civil War, marking the last time U.S. troops were stationed at the site. The fort was abandoned after a measles epidemic in 1861-62 claimed the lives of a substantial number of soldiers of the Third Illinois Cavalry and the 131st Illinois Infantry, who were using the fort as an encampment.

In 1903, through the efforts of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 24 acres surrounding the site were purchased by the state and on Nov. 5, 1908, it was officially dedicated as Illinois' first state park.

Archeological and historical excavations were conducted on the site from 1939-42 and attempted again in 1966 , 1970, and during 2002. In the early 1970's a replica of an American fort at Fort Massac was reconstructed off the original site of the forts. The replica was based on the 1794 American Fort. This reconstruction was brought down in the fall of 2002, to rebuild another replica of a 1802 American fort. The original site, where all the forts were built has the archeological outline of the 1757 French Fort.

The historic site is open to the public seven days a week. Contact the site interpreter to arrange special programs for educational, scouting, civic or tour groups.
 Hiking Trailyes
 Swimming Beachyes
 Bike Trailsyes
BoatingLaunch Rampsyes
There are 50 Class A vehicular campsites with electricity, a disposal station and a shower building, tent camping, and a separate group campground.

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Fort Massac is the perfect place to bring along a picnic lunch. Tables, grills and drinking water are scattered throughout the grounds and there are three playgrounds for kids. Four covered picnic shelters are available: one is reservable, while the others are first-come, first-served.
The park contains a one mile loop trail through grassy woods starting and stopping near the fort. This trail is also designated as a Forest Watch Tree Identification Trail. Brochures are available in the visitors' center for the Tree Identification Trail. The 2.5-mile Hickory Nut Ridge Trail is one not to miss, as it takes hikers along the scenic Ohio River.
Area Attractions
The unique Fort Massac Encampment is held for two days each October. This re-creation of the lifestyles and atmosphere of the late 1700s attracts more than 80,000 people. Several times throughout the year the park puts on living history weekends, where visitors can experience the past for themselves. (check with the park office for specific dates) There is an antique car show every June, in conjunction with the nationally known Superman Days in Metropolis.
Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
Encampment Oct.20/21 What a great event for young and old alike.Staff is very helpful food is great and a large variety. plenty for all to see and enjoy.
October 23 Great Park by Molly
Nice camping spots, quiet, and close to town for anything you might need. Only problem is that the shower rooms need much repair as in other state parks. Host is friendly and helpful if needed.
July 17 Prime Destination!! by k.b.
Clean, quiet, friendly, safe, I could keep going!!! Boat ramp nice, ample parking, hiking trails nice, shady camping, and plenty of picnic areas. Great place to run, walk, take your dogs, take your strollers, or just take a slow drive.
October 18 Great Park ! ! !Keep It ! ! by Rodney Bohannon
Wonderful educational tool.Every year its on my list of places to visit.My Father Dorsey C. Bohannon first took me here when I was a child,its got better ever since! Thanks to the park staff for a GREAT VISIT EVERY TIME ! !

Area Accommodations (over 15 miles away)
The Irish Inn - Ozark, ILBBs / Inns
Offering a wee bit of Europe in Southern Illinois' wine country. We are located right in the Shawnee National Forest. Stay in a stone and log chalet, cool in summer with blazing log fires in winter. You will enjoy the company of a genuine Belfast-born innkeeper and a full traditional Irish breakfast. There is no extra charge for the blarney, storytelling, and good Irish luck
Web Site:
27.4 miles from park*
Pinnon Lake Cabins - Buncombe, ILCottages and Cabins
Tucked away in the picturesque rolling hills of Southern Illinois, our location rests on the highly acclaimed Southern Illinois Wine Trail. Pinnon Lake cabins are ten tranquil minutes from the edge of Shawnee National Forest. Moments from anywhere yet feels like miles from it all.
Web Site:
34.5 miles from park*
Willowbrook Cabin Rental - Golconda, ILCottages 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
Web Site:
19 miles from park*
Doc's Lakeside Cabin - Jonesboro, ILCottages and Cabins
Doc's Lakeside Cabin was built in 2012 and is located in beautiful Southern Illinois. Let us welcome you to setting where you can rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
Web Site:
42.2 miles from park*
Cedar Rock Cabins - Goreville, ILCottages and Cabins
Located in beautiful Johnson County, Illinois, and nestled within the Shawnee National Forest. Enjoy the screened in porch at dusk and view the wildlife that wanders freely through the woods. The hot tub is located out of doors so you can relax in luxury beneath the stars....
Web Site:
32.6 miles from park*
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Take Exit 37 off Interstate 24 into Metropolis. Follow the signs.

USA Parks
Southern Region
Fort Massac State Park
© 2014