Overlooking the lovely Ohio River and located in a majestic area of southern Illinois, Fort Massac State Park is the perfect destination for RV history buffs. Not only is this the first state park of Illinois, but its home to a reconstruction of Fort Massac. Built by the French during the French and Indian War in 1757, Fort Massac has seen its fair share of war and turmoil, having been torn down and rebuilt several times. Fort Massac or its nearby land was used during the Northwest Indian War, and American Revolution and the fort hosted the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803.
Today, the reconstructed Fort Massac serves as a historical site, teaching visitors about its fascinating history and life in the early days of North America. The Visitor Center features a museum with interesting exhibits and artifacts, including guns, war uniforms, and arrowheads. Every year in October, Fort Massac State Park hosts the popular Fort Massac Encampment Festival that interprets life in the 18th century.
The park is quite large, with 1,500 acres available for fun recreation that includes picnics, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and disc golf. RV campers can enjoy Fort Massac's 50 electric campsites that have a mixture of 30 and 50 amp connections. Camping is available all year round but is walk-in only during the off-season. Peak season at Fort Massac State Park runs from March until the end of September.
Fort Massac State Park is located on the southern tip of Illinois in Metropolis. The park is right on the border to Kentucky, with the Ohio River separating the two states. Due to its location in Metropolis, the park is very easy to access and is close to services and amenities. Besides Metropolis, there are a few other small towns near the park, including Paducah, Mermet, and Lone Oak.
The terrain around the park is straightforward to navigate since the city and surrounding roads are very flat. There are trees lining the roads, but they are generally not close enough to where overhanging branches could cause damage to your RV. During the wintertime, it is common for snow to fall in the area, so make sure you call ahead and check with the park office before you begin your journey.
Want to check out other amazing parks in the area? Shawnee National Forest is just north of the park, offering dozens of lakes and ponds and nearly 300,000 acres to explore. Just 40 minutes to the southeast in Kentucky is Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, which offers a unique setting for hiking, fishing, and stargazing.
Fort Massac State Park Campground has some lovely facilities that will make you feel comfortable during your stay. The park has 50 sites available for RV camping that are level and shady. All 50 of the sites have electric connections that are either 50-amp or 30-amp, and all of the sites are back-in only. If you are looking to camp on a site that is close to the river, you can reserve any of the furthest east campsites, and they will be near the riverbank.
The campground has some great amenities, including toilets, shower blocks, water collection points, a dump station, picnic tables, and fire pits. The campground is pet-friendly, and you should be able to get cell phone service on any network. While site lengths vary, the max RV length that can be accommodated is 65 feet. During the winter, the park will be very quiet as opposed to the summertime. Reservations are required during the peak season, and during the off-season, the campground is walk-in only.
During the off-season, the campground is available by first-come, first-served only. Reservations are required during the peak season.
If you are camping with a large party, Fort Massac State Park has you covered with two pet-friendly group camps that can hold up to 100 people each. The group camps are primitive, but they do feature picnic tables, fire rings, and showers. You can use any of the amenities of the main campground, such as the RV dump station and water collection points.
Want to do some hunting? Fort Massac State Park allows hunting during the specific season. Species that are permitted to be hunted include woodcock, squirrel, dove, rabbit, and deer hunting by archery only. If you want to go hunting at Fort Massac State Park, make sure you contact the park office to confirm which areas you are allowed to hunt in. They will also have relevant information about site-specific hunting regulations.
Fort Massac State Park offers several peaceful trails for hikers to explore. If you're camping with kids, they'll love the one-mile Drouillard Creek Trail, which is a tree identification trail, where you can take a self-guided tour of the forest and grasslands; just pick up a pamphlet at the Visitor Center before you head out. The 2.5-mile Hickory Nut Ridge Trail provides majestic views of the Ohio River and also passes a historic cemetery.
Both hikers and bikers can enjoy trekking on four miles of the multi-use George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail that passes through the park. This is part of a larger route that extends from Metropolis through Massac County.
If you like golf or frisbee, put them together, and you have disc golf. Instead of hitting a golf ball with a club, in disc golf, you throw a disk into a basket-like target. Similar to golf, the object of the game is to have the least amount of throws per hole. Fort Massac State Park features an 18-hole disc golf course, so you can play nine holes or all 18.
Fort Massac State Park is a perfect place for a picnic lunch during the summertime. The park provides tables, grills, and drinking water throughout the grounds for your convenience. For those who have small children, there are also three playgrounds located in the park that you are able to use free of charge. Along with the unsheltered picnic areas, there are also four covered picnic shelters that are available. These shelters are non-reservable so they are first-come, first-serve.
The Fort Massac State Park Visitor Center and historic site is open throughout the year and is a must-visit if you want to learn more about the park. For those interested in the history of the fort, the historic site has the archaeological outline of the original site built at Fort Massac. There is also a replica of an 1802 American Fort that once stood on the site. The Visitor Center has a reception area that features information on the fort and the surrounding area. There is also a history video about Fort Massac and a prehistoric artifact display that is highly recommended.
While there is no lake situated in Fort Massac State Park, don't let that stop you from fishing. Since the park is on the banks of the Ohio River, you can cast a line out and see if anything is biting. There is also a boat dock and launch ramp available for park visitors, which will give you easy river access. Common species caught in the river include carp, catfish, bullhead, crappie, drum, and largemouth bass.