Tuesday, August 10

Shawnee Saltpeter Cave

Continuing with our monthly series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois," we present Shawnee Cave. In November, 2006 an article appeared in the Sierra Club newsletter for it, but never got posted onto the website; this is a reprint.

Take Rt 127 south from Murphysboro, IL, for 7 miles and watch for the sign at the top of the hill. Turn right and follow the road thru the gate downhill to the trailer and pay the entrance fee: $5.00 per person and kids are free. Always call 618-687-9663 to make sure it is open. The owner's main business is selling firewood and promoting music festivals at the cave. This means he cannot be home all the time. Visit the website at http://www.cavefest.com/ for upcoming music events. No glass bottles or pets allowed.

Continue downhill to the parking area. This shelter cave runs several hundred feet. Note the intermittent waterfall over the rim. Upon following the north end of the cliff canyon, note a bridge. Take this thru another parking lot and resume the trail. At some point it reaches a clearing, turn right. We come to Big Bear Den slot canyon. Further along, we cross a bridge with missing planks and continue downhill to form a loop trail. At some point note a side trail on the left to ascend 5 ft to the base of a pretty cliff line and lake. Little Bear Canyon is on the left as a tunnel thru a cliff. Retrace your route or continue the loop to arrive back at the parking area. Several picnic tables here as well as restrooms. Boating is no longer allowed for insurance reasons.

On the way back uphill to the entrance, we have signs to turn left for rim views. The road is part grass and then gravel. Due to some deep ruts in the road, you may want to park near the entrance and walk, unless you have a high clearance vehicle. Walk about 1/3 mile. There are 4 observation points to look down the canyon, the cave, and adjacent ridge tops. There is a turn around place at the end that loops around a cliff formation. There has also been a line of cliffs along the way on the right. More info from Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or robkay43@webtv.net. The GPS coordinates are N 37.652625 and W 89.321541 08/31/12:there is now a "for sale"sign at the closed gate. Rather than delete this article,I will wait and see if someone will re-open it.