The Best List of Caves in Illinois
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If you love caves, then this is for you! Caves are beautiful and mysterious places that fascinate people of all ages. Caves in Illinois have something to offer everyone – from the youngest child with a sense of adventure to the oldest person who enjoys peace and quiet.
No matter what your preferences are, we’re confident that there’s a cave waiting for you in Illinois!
The Best List of Caves in Illinois
The natural beauty that characterizes the state of Illinois is well known and revered across the world. Illinois, located in the Midwestern and Great Lakes region of the US, is mainly famous for its rolling hills and wetlands. It is home to several large cities such as Chicago. But if you are a spelunker, then your obvious question would be, “Are there caves in Illinois?”. Some of the most significant wonders of the state lie beneath the surface – the Illinois Caves.
The Top Caves to Visit in Illinois
The most significant concentration of caves is in Monroe County, which has more than 100 documented caves – more than any other county. Illinois, or the Prairie State, as it is lovingly called, has some great caving trails that would interest the hikers and the campers. Hand-curated trail maps and driving directions are readily available to make the experience a smooth one for the hikers.
Here are the major caves of the state –
- Illinois Caverns
- Blackball Mine Cave
- Rimrock Cave
- Stoneface Boulder Cave
- Mississippi Palisades State Park Cave
- Shaky Shelter Site
- Cave in St Louis Canyon
- Cave in Herod
- Sand Cave
- Devil’s Cave at Red Oak Center
- Indian Caves
- Matthiessen State Park
The caves mentioned above are the best you would come across in Illinois, but you can visit specific caves as per your interest. Let’s break this down a bit into various sections so that you can easily find what you are looking for.
Best Caves in Illinois
Now we will take a deep look into some of the famous caves of the state.
Wild Caves in Illinois
In this category, we look at caves that have been explored, but tourist visits are less frequent, thereby protecting the area’s pristine nature.
The Illinois Caverns is located in Monroe County, wherein a visitor will have lots to explore, like the woodlands, lush green fields, and a prairie trail. But the main attraction here is the wild cave that has almost 5 km of passageways to explore on foot.
One needs a valid permit to enter the place, but that can be obtained from the site office. The minimum size of the group for entry is four persons, and visitors are encouraged to wear boots, a hard hat, and at least two to three sources of light.
Salt Caves in Illinois
Illinois always keeps herself updated with the latest trends. There are lots of cake pop shops and food trucks in Prairie State, and if you are looking for a salt cave here, you will not be disappointed. The salt caves have been rising in popularity, and you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to salt therapy.
Primal Oceans Salt Cave
You will find yourself surrounded by lots of Pink Himalayan Salt as soon as entering through the gates of the salt cave. Chunks of salt adorn the walls of the cave, and it is a beautiful sight. Piped music is always played through the speakers during the therapy sessions, and the unit also offers additional treatment options for an enhanced experience.
The session is very relaxing and usually lasts for 90 min. Before you leave, you can purchase a piece of the cave if you like! It would be a wonderful souvenir to take back home.
Peoria Himalayan Salt Cave
The Peoria Himalayan Salt Cave in Peoria is a premier health spa that caters to Peoria and the surrounding areas. It is a fantastic place, and the staff members are helpful and knowledgeable. They specialize in therapies that give you relief from breathing problems and congestion.
Indian Caves in Illinois
The Indian Caves in Bourbonnais are perhaps the least popular cave attraction in Illinois, but they are a real gem in the Midwest. The Prairie State has many caves and rock formations, but the Indian caves are genuinely magical.
The Indian Caves are located at the Perry Farm Park and are open throughout the year till dusk. It is an obscure attraction, but visitors love coming here as they are transported to a whole new world. It is a recreational area, and one can indulge in many activities like viewing the local wildlife and hiking.
But the most popular activity is exploring the caves, and do not miss the narrow ravine that runs right through the cave from the opening to the Kankakee River. The ravine has a path, but it has lots of slippery rocks, making it unsuitable for less experienced spelunkers.
Ice Caves in Illinois
Ice caves are not common in Illinois, but you can find a couple of these when you come to Matthiessen State Park.
Vermillion River Waterfall, Matthiessen State Park
When you are at Matthiessen State Park, we suggest that you check out the Vermillion River Waterfall. It remains a bit hidden, but you will find a couple of converging waterfalls beyond Cedar Point. The 1st waterfall has a narrow ice column, and you can access it behind the frozen wall.
It is a small ice cave with beautiful ice formations, and icicles are often found hanging from the rock wall. Just a few steps from this one, you will find a much wider waterfall. At 50 ft long, this ice cave is the largest at the Matthiessen State Park. You can explore this cave and witness the multi-colored ice walls due to the minerals carried by the water.
Depending on the time of visit, the floor of the ice cave gets covered in water that would crystallize into ice in quick time.
Bat Caves in Illinois
Illinois is never famous for bat caves, and almost 90% of the caves here do not have any significant bat population. In some of the caves, you will have a hard time spotting any bat. But there is one cave where you can find a reasonable population of bats.
Blackball Mines Nature Reserve Cave
The nature reserve’s claim to fame is the large, abandoned limestone mine and the colonies of bats. It is the largest bat hibernation center in Illinois. One can find five species of bats, including the Indiana Bats, which are endangered. The bats in Illinois are insectivores, and some of these can eat up to 4000 insects in a single evening.
Hidden Caves in Illinois
There are a few hidden caves in the state which deserve mention. They are said to be hidden as locals or visitors less frequent them.
Located in Shawnee National Forest, the sand cave is a deep shelter that is carved from sandstone. In the 19th century, slaves used the Sand Cave as a shelter when they escaped to the north through the wild countryside.
Limestone Caves in Illinois
The Blackball Mines Nature Reserve Center had a colossal limestone mine, but now it is abandoned. There is another limestone cave in the state that deserves mention, and we will take a quick look at it.
The majestic Ohio River flows along the SE border of Illinois. Over the centuries, the river has carved the limestone bluffs and converted those into some of the most beautiful tourist attractions of the state. Among these is the historic Cave-in-the-Rock State Park.
Thousands of visitors come here every year, walk the gravel trail down to the edge of the Ohio River and look amazed at the mammoth opening that leads to the mouth of the limestone cave. The cave was carved thousands of years ago, and the cavern’s mouth is a massive 55 ft in width.
Natural Caves in Illinois
There are many caves in Illinois that were naturally formed, but of all these, one deserves a special mention because of its beauty and fantastic rock formations.
Devil’s Cave at Red Oak Nature Center
The Red Oak Nature Center is located in the Fox Valley District, and it offers a wide range of activities for everyone. It is a natural wildlife habitat; once you are here, you can spot a red fox, bald eagles and enjoy the vast expanse of lush green area.
There are also walking trails and picnic areas where families can have a good time. The Devil’s Cave is in this Nature Center, and it has a lot of history and folklore attached to it. However, avoid visiting the cave during the rainy or flooding season as the entry site becomes a mud pit.
Swimming Caves in Illinois
Believe it or not, there is nothing more refreshing than plunging head down into the clear waters of a swimming hole.
Shawnee National Forest (site of Cave-in-Rock)
Shawnee National Forest is the site of the Cave-in-Rock, a famous natural limestone cave that is visited by hordes of tourists every year. But there is another attraction to this forest; there are many swimming holes, especially in the Bell Smith Springs and Bay Creek area. The swimming holes look gorgeous and are a perfect spot for a refreshingly cool dip.
Wine Caves in Illinois
There is a unique looking vineyard in Carterville, and we encourage you to take a trip to this underground wine cave for a great tasting experience.
Wine Cave at Walker’s Bluff
Walker’s Bluff is a premier dining and entertainment venue in Southern Illinois, a popular place for weddings and family gatherings. Before you enter the wine cave, you will get the tasting room with a beautiful bar serving wine and beer. It is a lovely place to relax and get refreshed.
There is an interesting tunnel beyond the tasting room, leading you to a dome-shaped room with a circular bar. It is the famous underground cave that promises an intimate feel for every visitor. If you are above the ground, you can check out the vineyards and the gazebos.
As you can tell, the state of Illinois has a lot of caves to explore. Make certain to always be safe and prepared before entering any cave so you can make your cave experience a good one!
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