Monday, June 16

Cedar Wonders North

Continuing with our monthly series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois," we re-visit Cedar Creek Wonders in Shawnee National Forest. A previous article featured the south end of this area and is indexed on this blog. Now, we visit the north end. From Tunnel Hill, Illinois continue south to the junction with US 45. Go straight ahead and set odometer for 2.4 miles. Turn left onto this narrow gravel road and go approx 2 miles to its end. There is enough parking for 3-4 cars but don't block the gate.

This trail starts out as a rocky wet gully between woods and a field, then encounters a powerline clearing. Walk down the clearing and look for the River to River Trail signs (R-R ). Soon we are at the base of a cliff line. While on the signed trail, bushwhack about 50 ft off-trail to go thru a canyon maze and also view a 10 ft deep cave. Up ahead is a huge cliff overhang. Return to the trail and we descend to parallel the creek. This creek will junction with another creek from the west. The R-R trail crosses one creek to continue straight ahead. YOU WANT TO TURN RIGHT(note a lime green dot on a tree and my orange ribbon). Follow along this creekbed approx 0.2 mile and look for an obvious path to ascend to the base of the cliff line. You are in for a treat! We will travel along a continuous cliff line for the rest of the jouney on this user-made trail. Along the way, I found a rock tunnel, rock shelters,and pretty rock formations. Soon we encounter a waterfall over a rock shelter. After viewing, cross the creekbed and continue the trail.

About a mile later, we cross another small creek and ascend a faint trail to a junction. Both segments are marked with a green dot. Go left. We are going to see a free-standing natural arch about 15 minutes away. Along the route, look above you for a small arch sandwiched between two cliff layers. Our destination is the natural arch. I measured it at 8 ft high, 6 ft wide, and 3-4 ft thick. I have not continued beyond this point and re-traced the route back to the car. Upon return, be sure to note the junction with the two green dots and make the descent to the right(miss this and you could get lost).
I estimate the distance from the car to the arch at 2.5 miles. The trail has continual short ascents and descents. The trail tread is rocky since it follows the base of thee cliff lines. Optimal views of the opposite sides of the canyons are best after leaf-off. on 3-2-11, upon reaching the natural arch, we found out that you can continue straight ahead on the trail and it will descend to th creek and hit the junction with the River to River Trail. Turn north(left) on it and have a shorter route back to the trailhead, rather than returning via the canyons you followed to the arch.
More info from Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or You may also contact John O'Dell at 252-6789. There is no map of this area from the Forest Service.