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In the Shawnee Hills, the Dixon Springs Campground is an idyllic base for exploring the natural sights of Southern Illinois. It’s located on a giant block of rock along a fault line that extends across Pope County, with the Garden of Gods Recreation Area and Fort Massac State Park just a stone’s throw away.
RV camping at Dixon Springs Campground includes access to a range of basic campsites, with 30/50 amp connections and water hookups available. There are toilets and showers available near the swimming pool that are open during limited hours, with picnic tables and fire pits also available. Pets are welcome to stay with you at this Illinois RV campground, as are children, with an on-site playground for their use.
Golconda campers can take advantage of the outdoor pursuits in Dixon Springs State Park, which sprawls across 786 acres and is one of several state parks in the Shawnee Hills. It’s long been occupied by various tribes of Algonquins as one of their favorite camping grounds and takes its name from William Dixon, one of the first European settlers to build a home in the region. In the 19th century, it became a health spa that attracted visitors to its healing waters, with moss-covered boulders, craggy overhangs, and a picturesque brook where you can still relax today.
To the northeast of Dixon Springs State Park is the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, which is one of the most photographed natural areas in Illinois. It comprises just over 3,300 acres of forested terrain and spectacular rock formations, with numerous hiking trails for visitors to explore. Follow the Observation Trail to admire the area’s unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views while stopping to read the interpretive signs that detail the geological history. Another destination not to miss is the scenic overlook of Buzzards Point where you can see raptors and scavenging birds, as well as enjoy sweeping views across the Shawnee National Forest.
Drive in the other direction from Dixon Springs State Park, and you’ll arrive at the Mermet Swamp Nature Preserve, which protects an area of native vegetation that was once typical of the region’s bottomlands. It’s under water for most of the year, with a thick stand of cypress trees, as well as Virginia willow, arrow alum, and red iris. There are two nature trails where you can stretch your legs, including a boardwalk that extends into the cypress swamp, as well as a 452-acre lake that can be explored by rental boat. Largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill can all be caught here while swamp rabbits, golden mice, and a diversity of birds can also be spotted.
When you camp at Dixon Springs State Park, you can fill up your RV rental at one of the gas stations in nearby Vienna, which is around 15 minutes’ drive to the west. There are also supermarkets here where you can stock up on grocery supplies, as well as a couple of eateries for dining out.
Camping at Dixon Springs State Park offers easy access to the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which extends for 967 miles through Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. It follows the Ohio River through Southern Illinois, taking in the Mound City National Cemetery, Fort Massac State Park, and the Rosiclare Miners’ Memorial. Also known as the Fluorspar Miners’ Memorial, this Rosiclare bronze sculpture of a miner and his wife was created by sculptor David Seagraves. There are also three interpretive panels inside the adjacent pavilion where you can learn about the local history and get an overview of the entire Ohio River Scenic Byway region.
Camp in an RV near Golconda and you’re also just a short drive from Fort Massac State Park, which encompasses an early National Era fort along the Ohio River. It was constructed by the French in 1757 during the French and Indian War, then later destroyed by the Chickasaw during the American Revolutionary War. The reconstructed fort that stands today was built as it would have appeared in 1802 and features reenactors who interpret 18th-century life. Stop in at the visitor’s center to browse the Native American artifacts that are on display, together with mannequins in period clothing and exhibits detailing the history of the fort.
Around an hour’s drive southwest of Dixon Springs State Park is the Mound City National Cemetery, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the site of the Mound City Civil War Naval Hospital during the American Civil War and used to intern both Union and Confederate soldiers. It was officially declared a National Cemetery in 1864 and features a marble-built Illinois State Soldiers and Sailors Monument dating to 1874.
Whether you want to discover the American Revolutionary War history of the region or be immersed in the natural wonders of the Shawnee National Forest, book an RV in Pope County and start planning your next vacation.