Tuesday, May 8

Bulge Hole Ecological Area

 Continuing with our series,"Adventures with Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois", we feature Bulge Hole Ecological Area in Shawnee National Forest.  Directions: From Marion,ill. take I-57 to I-24, get off at Tunnel Hill exit, go east to the first road on the right( Dutchman Lake signage missing).  Follow this road several miles, pass the entrance road to Dutchmaan Lake, go under the freeway on Bowman bottom rd.  The road curves left, then right, left again, and you will see an open field on the right and an old roadbed on the left. Park roadside. GPS N37  30.107 and W 088  53.315.  The roadbed passes a utility rightaway and soon see the ecological area sign. We bushwhacked downhill along descending rock glades and downfalls until finally arriving at the canyon bottom.  There is no defined trail.  After trial and  error, we found a better way to avoid getting lost.  Go back to the utility crossing,go north, and count 4 double towers starting with the one next to the roadbed.  After the 4th one,turn left and easily descend below the cliff line.  You can proceed in either direction.  Going right we have a  pretty continuous cliff line and some rock shelters.  It ends at a fence.  Return to the junction and proceed south, again along continuous cliffs and arrive at a huge shelter cave.  Now go along another spectacular cliff  line on its west side: caves,cascades,mooss-covered rocks,and finally another huge semi-circle shelter cave.  Make your way back via the same line or creekbed.  note the fence again-cross over.  If you cannot find the utility pole again, one can always parallel the ascending rock glades back to the roadbed. 
Someone else recently found that by walking the roadbed until the fence highest point and crossing the fence another roadbed was found to go to the bottom and eventually found the bottom.  Any questions, contact Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or robkay43@webtv.net.  While here, why not try nearby Dutchman Lake trailhead( scroll on this index for specifics).
10-8-2012. feedback suggests walking the utility crossing might be formidable when weeds are high as well as snakes. 3 of us were there this week to make an alternative trail. Walk down the service road, as before. After walking over the rock glade, look for the first wood fence section, cross it and follow the obvious trail. At approx 0.6 the trail turns right and heads downhill to a break in the cliff line. I put up red flags so you can return here. go either direction to enjoy the cliffs and shelter caves. The one looks like it will have a 30 ft seasonal waterfall over the cliff. We brushed the trail and put down some logs to guide better.
06/20/2013: After an earlier Sierra Club hike in the area, we note the need to clear brush roadblocks away from cliff lines as it gets tiring to detour downhill and then back up again to the cliff lines to continue. On this date we cleaned out such brush so people can stay along the cliff lines. We also note that ATV riders knocked down the fence adjoining the service road. To find the point to turn off the service road, note the Forest Service sign and then continue over two more cedar rock glades, and then note the path to the right. I also put red ribbon on the tree.

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