By Misti Sandefur
Planning a summer vacation to Southeast Illinois or visiting family and friends in the area? Then make your stay enjoyable! Southeast Illinois has a variety of places to visit and oodles of fun to boot! Many of the small town folks are friendly, and the cities are surrounded by the beauty of the Shawnee National Forest.
Summer in Southeast Illinois brings farmer’s markets, car shows, firework displays, fairs, community yard sales and much more! Following is just a small portion of the summer fun Southeast Illinois has to offer.
Every Saturday — from 8 a.m. to noon — on the court house lawn in Golconda — enjoy the farmers market. There are homegrown vegetables for sale, animals and much more.
Eddyville has their annual 4th of July celebration during the first week of July. They commemorate with good barbeque, live entertainment, a beauty pageant for kids, a community yard sale and a fireworks display that ends the festivities until the next year.
Every September, on Main Street in Golconda, you can get pleasure from the Squads and Rods Car Show. While attending this annual affair, you will view classic squad and hot rod cars. In addition to the classic cars, the courtyard is also filled with delicious food and vendor booths.
Eldorado’s annual Town & Country Days is a three day event in September. There are many festivities to enjoy during Town & Country Days: cake walks, bingo, carnival rides, beauty pageant, kiddie parade, giant Town & Country Day parade and a whole lot more!
Again in September, take a drive to Golconda for their annual Shrimp Festival. Enjoy some fresh water shrimp, a shrimp cook-off, take a horse and buggy ride, or you can also take a ride on the Shawnee Queen River Taxi. When you’re ready to sit down and rest a spell there’s always some kind of entertainment to take pleasure in too.
Do you enjoy crafts and flea markets? Then visit Harrisburg toward the end of September. Harrisburg’s Past and Present Festival brings a craft demo, flea markets and much more. The Past and Present Festival is a two day event, so if you don’t see it all in one day you can return the next day. Harrisburg’s Past and Present Festival takes place at the Saline Country Fair Grounds.
Also taking place at the Saline County Fair Grounds, usually towards the end of July, is the Saline County Fair. The smell of funnel cakes will draw you in from the highway, and each night of the fair is an event. Events usually include the demolition derby, mud bogs, tractor pulls and much more. My most favorite things at the Saline County Fair are the taffy and the demolition derby. Oh yes, one other thing, I’m still a kid at heart, and because of this I also enjoy the rides. The tilter whirl, spider (that’s what I’ve always called it anyway) and the mixer are my favorite rides at the Saline County Fair.
Places to See
Festivities aren’t the only thing to do is Southeast Illinois. Some other things you can add to your list of things to do while visiting is seeing the sights and beauty the Shawnee National Forest has to offer.
Do you enjoy walks in the wilderness? Then you’ve got to visit Garden of the Gods while you’re here. Garden of the Gods has over 3000 acres of beauty. You’ll see many fascinating rock formations that correspond to various objects. The trails will lead you to many destinations, and some of those places include High Knob, Indian Point, Mushroom Rock, Big H, Anvil Rock and others. There’s no need to worry too much about getting lost, because Garden of the Gods provides maps for your convenience. If you do get lost it will be in the beauty of the area.
Located in Pope County, approximately 14 miles south of Harrisburg, is Bell Smith Springs. Bell Smith Springs offers picnicking, swimming, hiking trails, camping, hunting and fishing. For more information about Bell Smith Springs and its history visit illinois.sierraclub.org.
If you’re visiting Bell Smith Springs then make sure to venture down the road a little ways and pay a visit to Burden Falls as well. While walking around Burden Falls, you’ll get spectacular views of waterfalls that drop 100 feet. In addition to the waterfalls, Burden Falls is a great place for bird watching, hiking, camping, sandstone ledges overlooking bluffs, and cliffs. One piece of advice, be very careful on the ledges and cliffs, because many people have fallen. After a rain, the limestone on the cliffs and ledges can become very slippery.
Why not cool off from the summer heat by visiting Lake Glendale. Lake Glendale offers an 80 acre lake where you can swim and fish. In addition, you can also rent a canoe or paddle boat and explore the beauty of Lake Glendale even more. If you do decide to swim it will cost a small fee of $3 per adult, and if you have children between the ages of 1 and 5 then it will cost $1.50 per child.
If you prefer to swim in pools rather than lakes, then visit Dixon Springs State Park instead. Dixon Springs State Park is located approximately 10 miles west of Golconda on Illinois Route 146 near its connection with Illinois Route 145.
Dixon Springs State Park is not only a place to swim, but it’s also a wonderful place for a picnic, nature walks and camping. I’m sure you’ll find a variety of things to do and see, because Dixon Springs State Park has over 700 acres!
If you’d like to cool off from the summer heat and swim for free visit Pounds Hollow. Pounds Hollow offers a free swimming area. There are no lifeguards on duty, but you can see your kids from the beach area. The swimming area is open from May through August. For more information about Pounds Hollow, and for directions, visit www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests
Not up for swimming? Pounds Hollow also offers a trail. The trail will let you and your loved ones discover Rim Rock and also more of the beauty that the Shawnee National Forest has to offer. If you’re unable to hike you can rent a paddle boat and explore everything that way. Some of what you’ll discover at Pounds Hollow, during your hike or paddle-boating, will be an ancient Indian wall, the Ox Lot Cave and the Fat Man’s Squeeze.
Before you leave Southeast Illinois, make sure to drop by the Shawnee Restaurant and Lounge in Eddyville, Illinois (located on Route 145) for some good, down-home southern cooking! Paulette and Charlie Hobbs are the owners of Shawnee Restaurant and Lounge, and they offer a variety of homemade goodies. In fact, if you like catfish then drop by and visit Shawnee Restaurant and Lounge on Friday night, because you’ll get all the catfish you can eat, and let me tell ya, they have some of the best catfish there is in Pope County! The hushpuppies are also delicious — Mr. Hobbs makes these from scratch, and he also makes them from his very own recipe.
Shawnee Restaurant and Lounge not only offers good down-home cooking, but you’ll receive a friendly greeting, and who knows, the owners, if they’re there, may even come to your table and chat with you; they visit everyone they can to make them feel at home.
These are only some of the summer happenings and places to visit in Southeast Illinois, but I’m sure the activities in this guide will give you plenty to do and see while visiting the area. Y’all come back now, ya hear!