What Is The Devil’s Backbone?

Located in Grand Tower, Illinois, the Devil’s Backbone is a half mile ride of limestone that runs along the eastern shore of the Mississippi River. At the north edge is another landmark called The Devil’s  Bake Oven containing what is called Tower Rock. It is a 100-foot rock that stands on the end of the Missippi River. This landmark has a rich cultural history and has been a popular tourist attraction to anyone visiting the area.

When French explorers, Louis Jolliet and Jacque Marquette were first exploring the Mississippi River they noted a large rock, that is now known as Tower Rock.This area of the Mississippi was particularly treacherous and many a sailor would die around this ridge. This gave the area a sinister feel causing Native Americans to associate this stretch of the river with evil spirits. When white settlers infiltrated the land, they agreed with the Native Americans naming this area after the devil.

Many pirates would hide out in these parts and wait for victims. In the early 1800s, the amount of crime skyrocketed in this area causing the US Calvrymen to settle in the area to prevent pirates from attacking. However, their efforts were futile because the pirates just moved to a different stretch of the river. As the industrial revolution began to happen in the United States, the site became home to an Iron Factory and many houses for the leaders of the company. Some of the old foundations of the homes can be seen today and are allegedly haunted (or just the same evil spirits the Native Americans saw).

If you plan on visiting Southernmost Illinois and are interested in the supernatural, then The Devil’s Backbone and Bake Oven are a must see.

Best Golf Courses In Southernmost Illinois

No matter what time of year you visit Southernmost Illinois, you’re in for a treat. Golfing and other fun activities can usually be enjoyed whenever you’re here, and you’ll find that this part of the state has a lot to offer whether you’ve been here a hundred times before or you’re a traveler in search of a new adventure. Either way, get ready to put your clubs to work–there are some great golfing options available here in Illinois. Here are just a few of the best!

The beautiful Keller’s Crossing is located in Makanda, and you can easily spend an entire summer hitting the fairways at this veteran-owned and operated golf course. You can spend time with friends, or join a league. If you’re not into golfing, this spot is also great for scouting beautiful birds and ducks along the nearby lakes. It’s close to the Shawnee National Forest for added vacation potential. If you had something more special in mind, Keller’s Crossing also hosts private events and weddings. If you don’t have what you need for a visit just yet, then you can check out their online store.

If you’re a beginner and looking for a little challenge, take on the course at the Jackson County Country Club in Murphysboro–just don’t hurt your back playing too hard. The course is rated a 69, the slope is rated a 124, and the longest tee plays at a respectable 6,034 yards. You probably won’t find much of an obstacle here if you’re among the more experienced players in Southernmost Illinois, but either way you’re sure to have some fun. When it’s time to eat, check out the on site bar and grill.

If you’re in the mood for something a little smaller in scope, then check out the Hardin County Golf Club at Cave In Rock. You’ll only find nine holes, but they’ll leave you feeling challenged at the end of the day. This is a great spot if you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank before you head home. The club features events for special occasions and holidays, and tournaments for those who feel up to it.

The Union County Country Club in Anna is another great spot if you’re just looking to spice things up with a little variety. No one likes visiting the same courses over and over, and this is how you become great at the game–practice everywhere! The club hosts tournaments at regular intervals and member events for those interested. Weekends are the perfect time to enjoy an open round with your buddies. This is a well-rounded 18-hole course.

Best Places For Fishing in Southernmost Illinois

Nearly 330 million people reside in the United States, and over 30 million of those fish at least once every year. The number is growing fast, which means fishing restrictions are on the rise too. On top of that, your favorite spots might become a whole lot more crowded as a result of this sport’s newfound popularity. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been an avid fisherman all your life, you can always use a new spot. These are the best places for fishing in southernmost Illinois.

Visitor Pond is small body of water just behind the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Here you’ll find great largemouth bass. Because you pretty much have to catch and release, you’ll find the fish here grow pretty big. If you want a bigger spot where you can still find great bass, head to the 209 acre Harrisburg Reservoir in Saline County. You’ll find more largemouth bass in addition to channel catfish, bluegill, crappie and redear sunfish.

If you’re looking for a great spot that’s suitable for the kids, you could do worse than Ferne Clyffe Lake within Ferne Clyffe State Park. Sadly, boats aren’t allowed out on the water–you’ll have to toss out a line from land instead. On the bright side, the facilities on site are exceptional–there are restrooms, benches, parking, and a hiking trail around the lake. Take a trip to this lake if you’re in the mood to catch some bluegill or rainbow trout, among others.

If you’re in the area of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, prepare yourself for another great spot at Little Grassy Lake. The downside here is that you need to pay a couple of bucks to park your vehicle for the day, but it’s still a likeable spot. You’ll find a dock where you might cast a line, and part of the water’s edge is lined with rocks. If you head there, you’ll catch more largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, channel catfish, and red ear.

If you want to avoid as many people as possible, try Kinkaid Lake on for size. It covers a whopping 2,750 acres where you’ll find bass, crappies and muskies for the taking. If you’re looking to take part in other activities, this is a great spot for camping or relaxing in a boat on the lake. If it’s the right time of year, you can get some hunting in as well. If you do go out on the lake, take care that your boat doesn’t exceed wake or speed limitations. This is for the safety of other boaters and kayakers.

We know that enjoyable spots can differ from person to person, but these locations offer a wealth of fish both common and uncommon. The challenge is there–you just have to search for it!

Best Campgrounds in Southernmost Illinois

Southern Illinois specializes in outdoor adventures, even though most people wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. If you like to hike, kayak, go horseback riding, or spend the night around a campfire, you’ve come to the right place. The Shawnee National Forest has a number of popular campgrounds, each with nearby access to marinas or popular trailheads. These are the best campgrounds you’ll find in southern Illinois!

Shawnee Forest is a great place to stop no matter what you want to do. If you’re in the mood for a hike before you settle down for the night, then check out the Garden of the Gods or Cave in Rock nearby. If you need extra supplies, there’s a Walmart a short drive away. When you’re ready to make camp, there are a number of options available. If you want to pitch a tent, then go for it–but there are RV campgrounds and cabins available for those who want them!

Head on over to the Double M Campground or Trails End. At Double M, you’ll find 180 campsites and trail access. The hiking is all mapped out, so you’re a lot less likely to get lost when you head off into the forest. For those who need the extra convenience, you can enjoy an airconditioned shower station, ATM, playground, cabins, and extra bedding. Whatever your need, Double M has you covered.

Hayes Canyon Campground has been repeatedly featured on Best of America by Horseback because of its unparalleled riding locations. Only a half mile away from the campsites, you’ll find the Eddyville Community Center where they feature amateur musicians who focus on country and gospel music. There are rock climbing, archery, and hiking options nearby, as well as the Bell Smith Springs, which is home to some unique greenery and a stone bridge for a great photo op.

Little Grassy Campground & Marina is a great place to stop if you’re obsessed with the water. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent one. The lake is four miles long and a mile wide, and provides a great fishing spot for those interested. They’re located inside the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, and offer campers indoor restrooms, hot showers, group sites, security, a store for supplies, and special events on selected dates. Check ahead of time to see what’s scheduled!

Don’t be a stranger; experience the great outdoors like only southern Illinois can provide.

Best Restaurants in Southernmost Illinois

Although you might not think to make Illinois one of your summer vacation hotspots, you might want to reimagine what makes the list: Illinois is home to great schools, museums, rock climbing, wine trails, caves, forests, dive bars, and natural beauty. Of course, you’ll want to eat awesome food while you’re here, and you’re probably sick of the same old chain restaurants back at home. We’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best restaurants you’ll find in southern Illinois.

You’ll find Global Gourmet on Jackson Street in Carbondale, and you guessed it: this one has a little bit of everything your hungry little mouth could desire. You’ll find dishes from all over the world, served up in a “soothing” atmosphere. It has its own staple foods, but the menu changes every week. This location routinely gets the highest reviews, and every recipe hits the spot.

The Gabby Goat American Pub & Grill in Effingham is a great spot whether you’re in the mood to drink or eat or both. Although the food might look like common fare at first, each menu item does its own thing for a truly unique dining experience.

If you want a great ribeye or prime rib, head over to the Alamo in Mattoon. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then this is one establishment you’ll probably want to avoid–they specialize in meaty perfection!

Not everyone does Italian food just right, but Pastabilities Italian Grill in Decatur is as close to perfect as they get. Sure, it’s America, so you’ll get breadsticks before your food. But they’re awesome. Try the pasta, chicken, or build your own dish. If you’re in the mood for a drink, head to the bar.

If you’re a fan of baked goods, then try out the Lost in Time eatery in Fairbury. It’s an extremely popular location, so there will probably be a big crowd–but don’t let that dissuade you, because it’s completely worth the wait. Try the broccoli-cheddar soup or tomato basil bread, or any of their other delicious menu items. The only downside? Sometimes they run out of what you want!

If you’re in the area, then you absolutely need to make a trip to Butcher Boy Burgers in Rantoul. The family-owned restaurant doesn’t just serve great burgers, but they also bake a mean pie. If you go there, you’ll want to take one home for sure.

If you take a trip to Illinois, be sure to do your homework to get an idea of what kind of food you can find and where. There’s something for everyone. Illinois is a great spot for commercial business and restaurants experimenting with new food, so come try the local dishes while you explore one of the most underrated states in the country!

Here is a video about some of the best food in Illinois! Yum!

A Brief History of Southern Illinois University

When Southern Illinois University, centered in Carbondale, was founded in 1869, it was the state’s second teacher’s college with only 143 students, but already boasting 12 academic departments. Our school has become more vital as it has become more inclusive. We pride ourselves on our diverse staff and student body, our focus student-centered research programs, and the comprehensive nature of our academic offerings. SIU ranks in the top 5 percent of all U.S. higher education institutions for research. Our students are making an impact not only  in Southern Illinois, but worldwide.

Serving the Community

Among our recent achievements, we are especially honored to have earned the prestigious 2015 community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Being designated as a university with an ongoing commitment to serve the community as well as our students is important to us. As a matter of fact, in 2013 alone, we coordinated with more than 3,000 partners in the community to assist 237,000 residents of central and southern Illinois.

The Illinois Center for Autism is a prime example of our successful community efforts, providing extensive services for affected children and their families, while serving as a teaching facility for SIU’s eager and committed students. The center is also well-known for the important research it conducts, research that teaches our students scientific methodology while moving the world towards improved treatment plans and a possible prevention or cure for the condition.

Increasing Our Diversity

SIU has moved forward with American society as diversity has become more and more significant and relevant to education and personal integrity. We’ve come a long way from the days of our birth. While our first graduating class of 143 included only two African-American students, our current student body is composed of 29 percent minority students. During recent times, SIU Carbondale continues to rank high among the nation’s top colleges and universities in the number of degrees awarded to students in ethnic and racial minority groups. We are also intensely aware of gender equality. Our student population is divided almost equally between male and female students.

Natural Beauty Provides a Wonderful Backdrop for Deep Thought

Many students and faculty members, originally drawn to SIU for its intellectual prowess, end up transfixed by its natural beauty, much like lemon law PA. Not far from the memorable joining of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, our campus is also close to two glorious state parks, four shimmering lakes, and the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. When you come to Southern Illinois University, your mind will not only be challenged and informed but refreshed by the natural beauty that surrounds you.

If you are interested in seeing SIU’s campus, we have just the video for you:

The History of Scott Air Force Base

Originally established as an Air Service training camp after the United States entered World War I in 1917, Scott Air Force Base is now a United States Air Force base. Located in St. Clair County, Illinois, near Belleville (20 miles from St. Louis), the base currently employs 13,000 people — 5,100 civilians, 5,500 active-duty Air Force personnel, and 2,400 members of the Air National Guard and Reservists. The base is also home to three, soon to be five, cybersecurity squadrons. In addition, the airfield is used by  Allegiant Air for some civilian aircraft during which time it is referred to as MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.

The Beginning of Scott Field

In 1917, Secretary of War Newton Baker, coordinated with an aerial expert, the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, and directors of the Greater Belleville Board of Trade to lease 624 acres of land on which the Air Service training camp could be created. From then on, since the need was immediate, everything moved at breathtaking speed. The government gave construction company 60 days to erect approximately 60 buildings, lay a mile-long railroad spur, and to level off an airfield with a 1,600 foot landing circle! Construction was already underway when the government announced that the base would be named to honor Corporal Frank S. Scott, the first enlisted service member to be killed in an aviation crash.

The Period Between World Wars

The field’s future looked uncertain after the end of World War I. It briefly functioned as a storage site for demobilized equipment, but then, in 1919, the War Department purchased Scott Field for $119,285, enticed by its central location and irresistible price. In 1921, Scott Field became a lighter-than-air (LTA) station as it accepted the transfer of an Army Balloon and Airship School from Texas to its acreage, building a new airship hangar to accommodate the transferred aircraft. The new hangar, three blocks long, one block wide and 15 stories high, was believed capable of holding 100,000 men — at the time practically the number of men in the entire U.S. Army!

Scott Field After the Outbreak of World War II

With the opening of its Radio School in 1940, Scott Field returned to its former role as a training installation. Its primary purpose during the Second World War was to train radio operators to become, as its slogan boasted, “the best damned radio operators in the world!” Known as “the Eyes and Ears of the Army Air Force,” Scott’s graduates flew aircraft and operated command posts wherever U.S. troops were fighting. In 1947, well after the end of the war, the Army Air Force was renamed the United States Air Force so, in 1948, Scott Field officially became Scott Air Force Base.

Southern Illinois: a Wine Lovers Paradise?

More and more people are finding that wonderful wine can be found right here in southern Illinois. Shawnee Hills Wine Trail vineyards is fast becoming the Napa Valley of America’s Heartland. Beautiful at all times of the year, during harvest season the vines are fragrant with ripe grapes and soon the wine trails blaze with color. Visitors flock to the region for the wide variety of attractions that pull them toward the middle of the country.

Our Wines

The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail vineyards are not only full of fruit, but of crews rushing to gather  the small ripe treasures at their peak, while the presses squeeze the maximum sweetness from each little globe. The resulting wines are plentiful and varied. The grapes that produce the whites — like Niagara, Vidal and Seyval — ripen first; then the reds fully ripen to present the rich flavors of Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, and Norton.

Not by Wine Alone

Travelers, including an employment attorney or two, come from all over the country to taste our wines and to experience the many other pleasures the Shawnee Wine Trail offers. The trail is now dotted with charming Bed and Breakfasts, lovely restaurants, specialty shops, art galleries, spas offering relaxing massages, and a nearly endless array of paths for hiking, climbing, and biking. During the autumn, weekend concerts abound. We hold many special events. This summer (2017), there were special festivities planned for those who visited around the time of the full solar eclipse.

Our History

During the summer of 1995, the first three wineries in Southern Illinois — Alto Vineyards, Owl Creek Vineyard, and Pomona Winery — came to an important decision: there was a potential for extensive tourism right in their midst. They joined forces with the Carbondale Convention & Tourism Bureau and the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau to create the first wine trail in the state of Illinois: the now famous Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Just over two decades later, our B&Bs are filled to capacity year-round — individuals and groups making their reservations long in advance. Our current 11 wineries and participating associate members are proud of the excitement, relaxation, and delight we provide for our guests and of our recent designation as the new American Viticultural Area (AVA).

How Our Wines Are Made

In order to make quality wines, you must have high quality, well-cultivated grapes that are harvested just as they become perfectly ripened. Our grapes are picked by hand, put through a machine that de-stems them and crushes them. Yeasts are added to the resulting juice to begin the process of fermentation. The grapes’ natural sugar, which has been converted into alcohol and CO2 by the yeasts, must ferment at carefully controlled temperatures for about 3 weeks. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is aged either in oak barrels, or steel tanks. The wines stored in oak barrels will slowly absorb smoky, vanilla, and fruity characteristics; those stored in steel tanks have their natural flavors enhanced. Once wine has been fined (had its bitterness removed) and perfectly filtered, it is bottled and left to age. Depending on the type of wine, aging can take from 6 months to 2 years.

The Proof Is in the Pudding

When you visit the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, remember to fully enjoy the main attraction by savoring our remarkable wines. First swirl the wine in your glass to release its aroma, then sniff its intoxicating aroma. Finally sip a small amount to make subtle contact with your taste buds. We guarantee you’ll remember what drew you here in the first place.

If you would like to learn how to make wine like they do in the wine capital of the world (Southern Illinois) then please watch this video!

What Is the Belleville Philharmonic Society?

Belleville, Illinois is very proud of its Philharmonic Society and has every right to be. Founded by a musical group of local citizens in 1866, The Belleville Philharmonic Society is the second oldest continuously performing orchestra in the United States. In addition to its longevity, the Philharmonic Society boasts of its three ensembles: an orchestra, a chorale, and a youth orchestra. The current conductors are Robert Hart Baker for the orchestra and chorale, and Leon Burke III for the youth orchestra. The first conductor of The Belleville Philharmonic Society was Theodore Decker, who directed a group of gifted veterans, many of whom had been classically trained as musicians in Germany.

Keeping Culture Alive in the Community

Since its inception, The Philharmonic Society of Belleville has supported the arts in a number of ways, often partnering with the city in which it makes its home, the Belleville Chamber of Commerce, and a devoted group known as Belleville Main Street. The Philharmonic Society of Belleville is a not-for-profit organization. Having committed itself to supporting the arts in the greater Belleville community, it provides delight to audiences and musicians alike.

Performing regularly during its September to April season, The Philharmonic has an important place in the town’s heart — both as a creative outlet and a source of elegant entertainment. During the century and a half of its active existence, The Belleville Philharmonic Society has established a strong bond not only with the city of Belleville, but with all of St. Clair County, regularly performing for civic events and for the requisite Christmas holiday concerts, including, of course, a command performance of “The Nutcracker Suite.”

Competitive as well as Charming

Far from being only a quaint, nostalgic continuation of Midwestern history, the Belleville Philharmonic Society keeps its population on its musical toes by hosting two concerto competitions each spring for young musicians throughout the area.

Young people up to college age are eligible to participate in the “Stars of Tomorrow” contest. The winners of this contest earn the honor of performing with the Belleville Philharmonic during its October concert. In addition, the Youth Orchestra runs its own contest, The Tuerck Memorial Concerto Competition, named in honor of George Tuerck, the Youth Orchestra’s founder. The Tuerck competition is open to those who are high school juniors or younger; the winners receive honorary scholarships and get to play with the Youth Orchestra during its winter concert.

What is the Gustave Koerner House?

The Gustave Koerner House in Belleville, Illinois, has both a proud and heartbreaking history.

Gustave Koerner, a former Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, first built his house in 1849. Originally an imposing Greek Revival structure, it had to be rebuilt in 1854 after a disastrous fire. We tend to forget how devastating even small fires could be before water to extinguish them became readily available. As Koerner himself wrote in his memoirs in 1909: “the smoke was stifling; but if we had had a few more buckets, we could have extinguished the fire.”

The House and the Man

The imposing structure, located at the main entrance to Belleville’s National Historic District, is valued, even now in its decrepitude, as an historic landmark. In its prime, it reflected well on its owner, who is remembered as a learned man of fine character, an intellectual and a statesman. While a student in Kentucky, he became acquainted with Mary Todd Lincoln. Later, Koerner became a Supreme Court Justice in Illinois before whom Abraham Lincoln practiced in the 1840s.

From 1853 to 1854, Koerner served as Lieutenant Governor of Illinois under Governor. Joel Matteson. Though  well-respected, Gustave Koerner was never seriously considered for the position of governor for two reasons: [1] he was a German immigrant and [2] he opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, believing that it was a means of extending slavery, a practice he strongly opposed, along with suing municipalities.

The Greek Revival style of architecture manifest in the Gustave Koerner House was a popular structural form at the time it was built, so common that it was referred to as the “National Style.” In many ways its style befitted that of its owner. Its strong foundations and substantial size were well-suited to a man of Koerner’s political and judicial stature; its simplicity and lack of elaborate adornment spoke of his humility and modesty. As testament to Gustave Koerner’s strength of character and fortitude, he began the project of rebuilding his beloved homestead nearly as soon as the flames of the great fire were extinguished. A lithograph created by a fine mid-19th Century artist named Schrader is a magnificent record of the house as it appeared circa 1868.

The Gustave Koerner House Is a Piece of Our History

Gustave Koerner lived in house for 47 years, during which time it served not only as his family home, but also as a site for social and political events. Sadly, after his death in 1896, the structure was badly neglected and vandalized for decades. In the 1920s it was converted into low-cost rental units and then became a rooming house for the elderly around 1970. In 1984, it was subdivided into individual rental units again. Though the years have not been kind to the structure — as evidenced by its crumbling masonry, damaged roof, destroyed chimneys and peeling paint — some formidable aspects of the original structure remain intact. Stone lintels, a full front door,a window sash, handsome mantelpieces, and even an elegant open staircase remind us of its glorious past.

Here are 5 facts about the Gustave Koerner House: