Friday, January 7, 2011

Garden of the Gods, Illinois - The Prehistoric Scenery Takes You Back in Time

There is a Garden of the Gods in Illinois and its beauty and timelessness are unbelievable.

One of my many road trips through southern Illinois took me through the rolling hills of the Shawnee National Forest where I stumbled on some tourist signs that led me to the Garden of the Gods. The Shawnee National forest sits on government-owned land, spreading over 277,000 acres. The Garden of the Gods is nestled within this vast forest at the tip of the state between the flows of the Ohio River and the Mississippi River.

History of Garden of the Gods

The landscape formed by the Shawnee Hills is a mountain range that is approximately 320 million years old. A giant inland sea covered the area and was displaced by uplifts in the land which revealed the limestone and sandstone rocks seen today. The erosion that primarily caused the formations visible today in Garden of the Gods was caused by glaciations.

Though the glaciers did not reach this far south, they stopped just north of the mountain range. The melting of large ice masses, thousands of feet deep, unleashed enormous amounts of water in the area. Further erosion by windblown sand and rain and the natural effects of freezing and thawing have continued to leave their mark for hundreds of thousands of years.

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Check out this music inspired by the Garden of the Gods and other southern Illinois nature spots:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mound City, Illinois – A Strong Civil War Connection

Mound City, Illinois played a significant role in the Civil War though very few know of its contributions.

Mound City started out as two separate communities. One was a project called Emporium City founded by Emporium Real Estate and Manufacturing Company, a group of businessmen from Cincinnati and Cairo Illinois. The other was Mound City founded by Major General Moses Marshal Rawlings. Rawlings owned a hotel and his guests would sleep atop an ancient Indian mound in the summer to enjoy cool breezes. These and other mounds in the immediate area have long since been destroyed. The city was incorporated in 1857.

What put Mound City on the map was its proximity to the Mississippi river and to nearby Cairo, the base of Grant’s army before he invaded the south during the Civil War. It contained a massive military hospital, a naval station, a shipyard that built 3 of the Union’s 7 ironclad gunboats and one of the country’s 12 National Cemeteries for veterans of war.

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For more on Illinois in the Civil War, try these books: