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Near the town of Goreville in Southern Illinois, the Ferne Clyffe Campground is a popular base for RVers wanting to explore the surrounding Ferne Clyffe State Park. The area is known for its dramatic limestone bluffs, naturally forested woodlands, and cliff caves, as well as a number of seasonal waterfalls.
RV camping at Ferne Clyffe Campground includes access to their pull-through RV sites, with 30/50 amp connections and water hookups available. There are toilets and showers at the RV campground, a children’s playground, and recreation trails to explore, with pets welcome to stay with you. There’s space for big rigs if you’re towing a large travel trailer rental, and on-site fishing is also available.
Goreville campers can take advantage of the scenic trails that wind through Ferne Clyffe State Park, which sprawls across 2,430 acres. Aside from its lush ferns and unique geological features, the park also encompasses fascinating rock formations and picturesque woodlands. On the southern edge of the park is the Round Bluff Nature Preserve, which is renowned for its assemblage of plants that aren’t found elsewhere in the region. Black chokecherry, bottle gentian, and hay-scented fern are among the species that grow here, together with prickly pear cactus and blue curls throughout the sandstone glades.
A 30-minute drive east of Ferne Clyffe Campground will take you to Dixon Springs State Park, which is one of several state parks in the Shawnee Hills. It’s named after one of the first European settlers in the region, William Dixon, although it’s long been occupied by various tribes of Algonquins. Tourists first began visiting the area in the 19th century when it was established as a therapeutic health spa, with its tranquil brook dotted with moss-covered boulders still attracting visitors today.
Also nearby is the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, a highly photogenic area that spans just over 3,300 acres of forested terrain. It’s renowned for its spectacular sandstone rock formations that can be accessed on the reserve’s various walking routes, including the Observation Trail. Take note of the interpretive signs that detail the geological history, then soak up the sweeping views on offer across the Garden of the Gods. Birding enthusiasts should make a point of visiting Buzzards Point, which is frequented by raptors and scavenging birds.
A 30-minute drive south of Ferne Clyffe Campground takes you to the Mermet Swamp Nature Preserve, which protects an area of picturesque bottomlands that are inhabited by swamp rabbits, golden mice, and a variety of birdlife. There are a couple of nature trails to explore, including a boardwalk that extends between its submerged stand of cypresses. Anglers can try their luck at luring largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill or rent a boat to explore its 452-acre lake.
When you opt to stay at Ferne Clyffe Campground, you can fill up your RV rental at the gas station en route to neighboring Goreville. You’ll also find a couple of supermarkets here if you need to pick up grocery supplies, as well as a handful of eateries, including a Mexican restaurant and a fast-food joint.
Camping at Ferne Clyffe Campground puts you on the doorstep of the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which hugs the Ohio River for 967 miles through Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. In Southern Illinois alone, it takes in the Mound City National Cemetery, Fort Massac State Park, and the Rosiclare Miners’ Memorial, each of which offers an insight into the history of the state. Witness the bronze sculpture of a miner and his wife that was created by sculptor David Seagraves in Rosiclare to honor the region’s mining history. Also nearby is a pavilion with interpretive panels, one of which details the entire Ohio River Scenic Byway region.
Camp in an RV near Goreville and spend a day exploring Fort Massac State Park, which centers around a fort that was constructed by the French in 1757. It was destroyed by the Chickasaw during the American Revolutionary War, then rebuilt in 1794 during the Northwest Indian War. It’s now open to the public as a living museum, with costumed reenactors interpreting 18th-century life. Browse the Native American artifacts that are on display at the visitor’s center, alongside mannequins exhibiting the period dress of the day.
Travel farther west along the Ohio River, and you’ll arrive at the Mound City National Cemetery, which was the site of the Mound City Civil War Naval Hospital during the American Civil War. It was used as the burial site for both Union and Confederate soldiers and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While exploring the cemetery, don’t miss a visit to the marble-built Illinois State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which was erected here in 1874.
Whether you want to explore the sights along the Ohio River Scenic Byway or get active in Ferne Clyffe State Park, book an RV in Johnson County and start planning your next vacation!