When you think of a wetlands area, there is no doubt that you may quickly conjure up an image of Swamp Thing's eerie home immediately. Or, perhaps you envision a marshy bog filled with savage spiders, slippery snakes and man-sized mosquitoes, each lying in wait under an ever present layer of fog, lurking within their secret hiding places until deciding to lurch forth for you, their unsuspecting victim. But in reality, wetlands are beautiful areas that also provide a home to more than a third of the species on the U.S. Endangered Species List and serve a variety of services to us as well; such as recharging our ground water supplies, providing a filter which removes pollution, and trapping flood waters. But beyond those important ecological benefits, you will find that wetlands may provide another intangible benefit to you. You may find your own soul reinvigorated, if just given a chance to step beyond the "mud and muck" of Cache River State Natural Area...
Cache River State Natural Area
|This Cherrybark Oak|
Champion may be found
on the Todd Fink
Heron Pond Trail
On our visit we were lucky enough to hike three areas within the Cache River State Natural Area (click to visit individual pages or read more below): Big Cypress Tree Trail (250 feet), the Section 8 Wood Nature Preserve Boardwalk (475 feet) and the Todd Fink-Heron Pond Trail (1.5 miles). Each of these short hikes were absolutely stunning and completely unique in their own way. These short journeys also seriously whet my appetite for a return to visit areas such as the Marshall Ridge Trail (2.8 miles), Lookout Point Trail (1 mile), and the Lower Cache River Swamp Trail (2.5 miles), but that will have to be another post at another time I suppose.
Big Cypress Tree Trail
|Although missing some of its mighty boughs,|
the state champion is still an impressive sight!
Section 8 Wood Nature Preserve Boardwalk
|The murky waters of Section 8 are haunting.|
Todd Fink-Heron Pond Trail
|See that cool "Zipper" effect?|
Now, after you've taken the journey on the Heron Pond boardwalk you may think that's it... But you'd be wrong. Remember that fork, where we turned left? You may be wondering what exactly would have happened had we turned right instead. Well let not your heart be troubled, because had you turned right at that fork you would have taken a trail that would have led you directly to yet another state champion tree! This time you would have discovered the state champion cherrybark oak tree that has grown to a circumference of over 22 feet and 100 feet high! You may never have quite so much fun feeling so very, very small and believe me, it's worth a quick visit to set your eyes upon this towering titan, plus it is only a few yards up that right path...
Cache River Wetlands CenterYou may want to begin your entire adventure to the Cache River Wetlands Area at the Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center. Unfortunately the visitor center was closed when we visited the park on a Monday, but it certainly seems to have many offerings for you to peruse. It is located at 8885 State Route 37, Cypress, IL, 62923 and is now open to the public five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
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Cache River State Natural Area: Big Cypress Tree Trail - Looking for the state champion bald cypress? Take this trail!
Cache River State Natural Area: Section 8 Nature Preserve Boardwalk - Take a stroll directly through a swamp without even getting your feet wet!
Cache River State Natural Area: Todd Fink-Heron Pond Trail - Another state champion tree and awesome boardwalk trail!
Cache River State Natural Area homepage
Hiking Maps of the Area
Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center
Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center flyer - This little beauty has many of the cool features of the center listed.
Cache River State Natural Area Map
Color Brochure of the Area