Waterfalls, spring flowers, fall colors and trails of all intensities keep Ferne Clyffe State Park interesting year round. Part of what makes the park inviting are the rock formations and the more than 700 species of plant life that cover its more than 2400 acres. The park is especially beautiful in the spring and fall.
The park is crisscrossed with trails from which the formations of limestone bluffs and rock outcroppings can be seen. The park is inhabited by a wide range of trees which burst forth in springtime flowers. Beauties to watch for include the flowering dogwood, redbud and serviceberry. Add to that the multitude of spring flowers like spring beauty, trillium and wild violets and you find yourself surround by a living bouquet.
Another feature Ferne Clyffe offers its springtime visitors are a pair of intermittent waterfalls that flow freely when the spring rains cascade down the upper bluffs. The most impressive of these is 100 feet tall and cascades into a small pool at the end of Rocky Hollow Trail. In March or April, wait until after a particularly heavy rainfall or several days of rain and then take a hike to see the waterfall.
In a forest this large, the show is spectacular in the fall, too. When autumn is at its peak, generally in October, the sumac, sweet-gum, maple, oak and hickory trees put on a breathtaking show of their own. The cooler temperatures make hiking in the park at this time of year a pleasure.
Ferne Clyffe offers 18 hiking trails in varying degrees of intensity. Most fall under two miles in length but a few are in the five to eight mile range. Some are particularly steep. You can find a description of each trail and what is significant about it here. Several trails accommodate equestrians between May 1 and October 31. Parts of the equestrian trails may be shared with hikers.
A man-made 16-acre lake was created in 1960. Fishing from shore is permitted but swimming and boating are not. One of the trails circles the lake. The nearby Lakeview Picnic Shelter is an ideal place to take a lunch break and enjoy the beauty of the lake and surrounding forest.
The park offers a variety of campgrounds from group locations to modern, primitive and equestrian sites. Some offer access to showers. It also provides numerous picnic areas complete with cooking facilities. There are several playground areas and rest room facilities throughout the preserve.
Ferne Clyffe is an ideal place for families to get back to nature together. Time spent appreciating nature in all its seasons has a restorative quality that is good for the heart, mind, body and soul. The park is located about one mile south of the town of Goreville, IL on Illinois Route 37.
Interesting Fact: It is said the park has ties to both George Rogers Clark's contingent on its way to Fort Kaskaskia and to the Cherokee who may have hunted here while on the Trail of Tears.