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6 Of the Best Caves in Illinois for a Memorable Adventure

By | Last Updated : 23rd November 2021

Caves may not be the first thing to come to your mind when talking about the Prairie State. Yet, it has over 300 of them scattered throughout, with many occupying Monroe county. These natural beauties have been mainly formed by water and wind erosion, resulting in some magnificent formations inside worth viewing. With additional activities like hiking, picnicking, and wildlife watching, you can enjoy spending an entire day admiring the Illinois landscape after an adventurous spree inside the caves.

Caves in Illinois

Caves in Northern Illinois

1. Indian Caves

Indian Caves in Northern Illinois

If planning for a fun yet toilsome adventure, you can consider visiting the Indian Caves. These are a set of small caves on the Kankakee River in Perry Farm Park in Bourbonnais.

They are apt for experienced spelunkers as one would have to traverse along narrow ravines flowing through the caves, alongside slippery rocks.

Due to continuous water and wind activities over the years, you will notice unique hollow formations here.

Things to do around here: Apart from exploring the caves, the park also offers opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and seeing the farm animals.

Hours of operation: 7 am to 8 pm

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2. Cave in St. Louis Canyon

Cave in St. Louis Canyon in Northern Illinois

There is a shallow cave carved in the sandstone rocks of Louis Canyon due to erosion over the years. You will have to hike a 1-mile trail in Starved Rock State Park to witness it.

As a bonus, a waterfall at the backdrop plunging down the canyon walls will be awaiting you. 

Things to do around here: You’ll find many other canyons and natural features like waterfalls within the state park.

Hours of operation: 7 am to sunset

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3. Blackball Mine Cave

Blackball Mine Cave in Northern Illinois

This cave in north-central Illinois is an abandoned limestone mine positioned within the Pecumsaugan Creek Blackball Mines Nature Preserve.

It is now a hibernating place for about five bat species, one of which is the endangered Indiana bat. In order to not disturb them, the cave has been closed to public access.

Things to do around here: You can enjoy hiking the preserve area to explore the adjacent historic sites and Pecumsaugan Creek.  

Hours of operation: (of the preserve) 24 hours

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Caves in Southern Illinois

1. Illinois Caverns

Southern Illinois Caverns

Illinois Caverns is the state’s second-largest, located within a state natural area in Monroe County. Remember to bring extra clothes as exploring the caves require s a long, strenuous walk along ankle-deep waters. Once you reach the interiors, you’ll be spellbound to see the cave walls adorned with stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and soda straws.

Apart from this, they are also home to the tri-colored and little brown bats, and the cave salamander The temperature here remains a constant 58°F. Only four people at a time can enter the caves after acquiring the permit.

Things to do around here:There’s a prairie trail and many woodland areas that you can enjoy exploring as well.

Hours of operation: 8:30 am to 3:30 pm (Thursday to Saturday)

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2. Cave-in-Rock

Cave in Rock Illinois

This cave within a limestone bluff is the centerpiece of Cave-in-Rock State Park that overlooks the Ohio River. The cave has an interesting history indeed used for over 1000 years by the Native Americans.

During the second half of the 18th century it was used for notorious deeds indeed by bandits, pirates, fugitives, and robbers who would scheme, drink, gamble, and even kill anyone who posed a threat to them.

Eventually it transformed into a place for human habitation with the Cave-In-Rock set up in the 19th century.

Things to do around here: There are many things to do in the state park, one being exploring the moderately difficult trails to get a glimpse of the scenic forests around. If bringing kids along, take them to one of the three playgrounds present there. You can even picnic with your family in the picnic shelters equipped with grills and tables. There are campsites on the park’s northern side where you can spend the night.

Hours of operation: 8 am to 9 pm

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Caves in Central Illinois

1. Ox Lot Cave

Ox Lot Cave in Central Illinois

Ox Lot Cave is actually an overhang shelter frequented by the European settlers and Native Americans to store their livestock. It can be accessed using the 2.3-mile loop, Rim Rock Recreational Trail in the Shawnee Hills.

As you explore the base of the sandstone bluff, you will be able to hear the sounds of the dripping water, and even feel the cool air. It is particularly impressive when icicles form on the bluff walls during winter.

Things to do around here: Picnicking is one of the most sought-after activities with amenities like picnic tables and pedestal grills available.

Hours of operation: 6 am to 10 pm

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The Alleged Burrows Cave

Russell Burrows is the discoverer of the alleged Burrows Cave in April 1982. He has claimed to find numerous artifacts, including carved stones from inside it. However, undergoing examinations by archaeologists and scientists, proved them fake, denying the existence of such a cave ever. It is now believed that Burrows might have made up stories for fame and money.

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Best Caves with Waterfalls: Cave in St. Louis Canyon

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