Treasures of Little Egypt: Plan Your Outdoor Adventures
The Shawnee National Forest and various parks lend a unique beauty to Southern Illinois that includes rolling hills, wonderful trees, and water. Rivers and lakes are plentiful, with lots of boating, swimming, and other water activities available for the rest of the summer.
Whether it is a day trip or a regular stop in your schedule, remember to take precautions when dealing with Mother Nature. Southern Illinois is home to three species of poisonous snakes, so watch where you step. Dress appropriately for the surroundings, and be sure to bring plenty of insect repellent, clean drinking water, and food. Many popular attractions are not exactly in cell-phone range, so do not take any unnecessary risks in the wilderness. Let friends know where you are headed and when you expect to return home. Always remember to do a thorough check for ticks after you leave the great outdoors.
Be kind to the environment. Protecting and preserving the natural beauty of Southern Illinois ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy the spectacular views. Actions of others have caused the closure of some popular areas to public use and heavy restrictions on those that are still open. Learn the rules for the places you are visiting, follow them to the letter, and clean up after yourselves.
To plan your trip, start with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website at <http://www.dnr.illinois.gov>. Another terrific information source is <http://www.ShawneeAdventureGuides.com>.
The Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau and Williamson County Tourism Bureau have mounds of visitor guides, brochures, and maps to many of the most popular outdoor attractions and regional events. To request information from the former, visit <http://SouthernmostIllinois.com> or call (800) 248-4373. For the latter, check out <http://www.VisitSI.com> or call (800) 433.7399.
Those looking for packages-- say, for a golf-trail excursion-- could visit <http://EscapeLocally.com>.
In addition, check out the Shawnee Audubon Society online at <http://www.ShawneeAudubon.org> and the Shawnee Group Sierra Club at <http://Illinois.SierraClub.org/Shawnee>. The Shawnee Audubon Society leans more toward ornithology, while the Sierra Club broadens its interests to include environmental activism and lobbying, but both clubs organize nature hikes as well as other outdoor-exploration events.
The SIU Recreation Center Base Camp rents outdoor equipment and resources to college students as well as the general public. For more information, log on to <http://www.RecCenter.siu.edu> or call (618) 453-1287.
Shawnee Trails Wilderness Outfitters, at 222 West Freeman and (618) 529-2313, is a locally owned and operated store that offers everything necessary to fully enjoy these natural treasures, including climbing gear, packs, tents, books, sleeping bags, and footwear made for specific terrain. Employees may also offer expert advice about the gear needed for certain areas.
Trails of Awareness in Vienna rents canoes for trips on the Cache River and offers lessons in river-survival skills, natural history, and more. Call (618) 201-4090 or visit <http://TrailsOfAwareness.org> for more information.