What to do in Ferne Clyffe State Park

*This information was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources*

Ferne Clyffe has been known as an outstanding natural scenic spot for nearly 100 years. An abundance of ferns, unique geological features and unusual plant communities create an atmosphere that enhances the many recreational facilities offered at the park. Trails wind through picturesque woods, allowing visitors to view fascinating rock formations and inspiring vistas.

Located on Illinois Route 37, just one mile south of Goreville and 12 miles south of Marion, the 2,430-acre park is easily accessible from both I-57 and I-24. With camping, picnicking, hiking, hunting, fishing and sightseeing to choose from, you can't help but enjoy a visit to Ferne Clyffe.

History-George Rogers Clark and his contingent purportedly passed through or near Ferne Clyffe on their trip to Fort Kaskaskia in 1778. One hundred years later, the Cherokee are reported to have used the area as their hunting range while on their Trail of Tears march.

Two Cairo brothers purchased a part of the park known today as Hawks' Cave/Big Rocky Hollow in 1899 and called it Ferne Clyffe because of the ferns that grew in such abundance. The area soon became known for its beauty and was eventually sold to Miss Emma Rebman, a local school teacher and Johnson County school superintendent. Miss Rebman opened the park to the public on Sundays for a 10-cent admission. Ferne Clyffe soon became a popular attraction, and local entrepreneurs began to provide transportation from the Goreville train depot for an additional 10 cents.

In 1929, Miss Rebman offered to sell the park to the state of Illinois. Additional efforts by conservation and political groups such as the Greater Egypt Association and the Illinois Redevelopment Board resulted in the state's purchase of Miss Rebman's 140 acres in 1949.

Today, Ferne Clyffe State Park covers 2,430 acres of the majestic Shawnee Hills and is visited by more than 200,000 nature lovers each year.

Natural Features-Impressive rock formations can be seen from almost all of the park trails, but two of the best-known sights are Hawks' Cave, a 150-foot-long shelter bluff, and a 100-foot-tall intermittent waterfall on the Big Rocky Hollow trail.

Flora and Fauna-It would be nearly impossible to list all of the plant life that thrives in the park–there are more than 700 species! Flowering dogwood, redbud, serviceberry, spicebush, sumac, sweetgum, maple, oak, hickory and some of the woodland wildflowers create an extraordinary color backdrop for recreational activities in the spring and fall. Late April and early May are particularly good times for viewing the springtime color show. Fall foliage is at its best in October.

As you walk the trails, you can expect to see squirrels, rabbits, doves, quail, and bluebirds and other songbirds and an occasional wild turkey.

Ferne Clyffe Lake-Since 1960, the 16-acre Ferne Clyffe Lake has offered visitors additional recreational and scenic opportunities. The lake has a maximum depth of 22 feet, and a hiking trail encompasses the 1-mile shoreline. It is open to bank fishing, but boating and swimming are prohibited. Spectacular views of the lake can be seen from Lakeview Picnic Shelter and Blackjack Oak Trail.

Recreation
Fishing and Hunting-Bank fishermen will be impressed by populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish and redear in the lake.

Hunters will appreciate the 1,750 acres of forested habitat, with good populations of deer and squirrel. Quail and rabbit populations are fair. Food patches are planted in open areas each year to enhance the habitat for upland game species. Please check in at the hunter check station (maintenance building) prior to your hunt.

PicnickingFerne Clyffe has been a favorite picnic spot for decades. There are seven picnic areas, all with tables, cooking grills, parking and toilets. Several areas also have shelters, drinking water and playground equipment. Only park grills or personal cookstoves should be used for cooking fires to avoid the possibility of damaging the site. Camping-Ferne Clyffe has a campground for every type of camper: modern, primitive, youth groups, backpack or equestrian. The shower facilities that are offered at some campgrounds are available seasonally.

Deer Ridge campground is a well-shaded Class A facility offering gravel pads with electricity, picnic tables and cooking grills. Drinking water, showers, flush toilets and a sanitary dump station complete the setting for campers who prefer to include a few comforts of home with their outdoor adventure.

Turkey Ridge is for campers who want a serene outdoor experience. It is a Class C walk-in campground that includes camp pads, picnic tables, cooking grills and showers. Drinking water and toilets are located near the parking lots.

Scouts, church groups and other youth groups will enjoy the Youth Group campground. This Class D facility is equipped with drinking water, picnic tables, cooking grills, toilets and parking. Groups of minors must have adequate supervision, and at least one adult must accompany a group of 15 minors.

Backpackers enjoying their commune with nature will appreciate the solitude of the individual campsites in the Class C Backpack campground. Located a half-mile from the Turkey Ridge primitive campground parking lot, these woodland sites have cooking grills, toilets and showers. Water and trash receptacles are available at the Turkey Ridge parking lot. You're reminded to be careful with your fires and to pack out what you pack in.

Equestrian-Horseback riders can ride directly to their own Class C Equestrian campground on the trail or drive to it in their vehicles. Up to 25 riders can be accommodated at the site, which includes picnic tables, drinking water, cooking grills, toilets, parking and showers. The campground is well-shaded by an abundance of trees, and you must protect the trees by tying horses to the hitching rails. There are no horses available for rent.

Sites in the Deer Ridge, Turkey Ridge and Youth Group campgrounds do not require advance reservations. Backpackers and horseback riders should, however, make advance arrangements through the park office.

Trails-Eighteen diverse trails offer visitors the chance to view the beauty of Ferne Clyffe at their own pace. Please note that the park does not allow motorized vehicles or bicycles on the trails. Equestrian use is allowed on equestrian designated trails. Equestrian trails are closed to horses from November 1 to April 30. Naturally occurring dangerous areas exist within the park, so exercise awareness and caution. For your safety, it's recommended you hike on designated trails. Each trail has been assigned a number, as well as a name, to make map reading easy for even the novice hiker.

Location
Ferne Clyffe State Park can be reached from I-57 and I-24. The park is well signed from both interstate highways. If traveling south on I-57, take the Goreville exit, #40, approximately 12 miles south of Marion, IL At exit #40 turn left (east), go 5 miles to IL Rt. 37. Turn right (south) on Rt. 37, you will see the park entrance 1 mile south of Goreville. Traveling north on I-57, take exit #40, Goreville, turn right (east), go 5 miles to IL. Rt. 37, turn right (south) on IL Rt. 37 and you will see the park entrance 1 mile south of Goreville. If traveling on I-24, take exit #7 (Goreville), turn west and go 2 miles to IL Rt. 37, turn left (south) and go ½ mile to park entrance.

Climate
Illinois experiences four distinct seasons with varying weather throughout the year. Winter can be very cold. The highest humidity of the year occurs during this season averaging 70 to 75 percent. Average low temperatures in January dip to 20 degrees F with highs near 35 degrees F. Spring temperatures are mild with humidity below 70 percent. Temperatures during this season average between 32 and 50 degrees F. Summer is usually hot and humid in this Midwest state. Low temperatures remain in the low sixties with high temperatures near 90 degrees F. The highest rainfall of the year occurs during the summer months. Fall is an excellent time to visit the state with low humidity and rainfall and moderate temperatures.

Address
Rt.37, P.O. Box 10
Goreville, IL 62939

Phone: 618.995.2411

Email: R5Parks@dnrmail.state.il.us
  • Ferne Clyffe State Park Travel Q&A

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