cave bears

Cave-in-Rock State Park

Cave-in-Rock State Park is an Illinois state park on 204 acres (0.83 km²) in Hardin County, Illinois in the United States. The state park contains the historic Cave-in-Rock, a landmark of the Ohio River. It is maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).


The Cave-in-Rock was worn into the sandstone bluffs of the Ohio by river floods, especially during the meltoff following the Wisconsin ice age. It is not a karstland cavern like Mammoth Cave in nearby Kentucky; it is a wide, obvious, 55 feet (16.8 m) wide tunnel leading a short distance into the sandstone bluff.


Cave-in-Rock was known and used for thousands of years by the Native Americans. It was mapped and named in 1729 by the French explorer de Lery, who named it the caverne dans le Roc. This name, translated directly into English, is the name the cave bears to this day.

During the 1790s and first decade of the 1800s, Cave-in-Rock reached the height of its notoriety. Flatboats carrying farm produce from Kentucky, Ohio, and southern Indiana began to float down the Ohio River towards the marketplace in New Orleans. As a known Ohio River landmark, the cave was a landmark of this dangerous journey. Al least twice during this 20-year period the cave became a hideout for notorious bandits that preyed upon the lawless river commerce.

Later in the 1800s, Cave-in-Rock was tamed by settlers who formed the river town of Cave-in-Rock, Illinois near the cave. The town survives to this day. It became the site of a river ferry, adjacent to the state park, that crosses the Ohio River from Illinois Route 1 to Kentucky Route 91 across the river.

State park

In 1929, the state of Illinois acquired the cave and began to glue together small parcels of land to form the current park. The completed park stretches from the river's edge to the top of the adjacent 60 feet (18.3 m) tall bluff. The state park is maintained by IDNR for Ohio River access, camping, and hiking, including hikes to the historic cave.


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