An online travel magazine recently unveiled its list of the most beautiful places in each of the 50 states, and its choice for Illinois may surprise some locals.
While Illinois is blessed with a wide variety of incredible natural areas, including Starved Rock State Park, the Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest, and many more, The editorial staff of Travel & Leisure ended up choosing Cache River State Natural Area as the “prettiest place” in Lincoln Country.
“You might think you’re at the bottom of a Louisiana bayou in this bald cypress and tupelo swamp, the northernmost of its kind in the United States,” the magazine said.
According to the IIllinois Department of Natural Resourcesthe park is located at the southern tip of Illinois and was carved out by glacial floodwaters from the Ohio River.
Comprised of nearly 15,000 acres, the state says the park has been designated a “Wetland of International Importance” because of its importance to migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.
According to the IDNR, visitors can tour the park in multiple ways, including hiking, biking, and canoeing.
For Chicago residents, the site represents a bit of travel. The entrance to the park is approximately 353 miles from the NBC tower in Chicago, which is a nearly six-hour drive.
By contrast, Indiana’s winner of “most beautiful place,” Hemlock Cliffs, is 300 miles from the NBC Tower and can be reached in five and a half hours.
Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (339 miles) is also closer, and Ohio’s Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is nearly identical in distance to Windy City.
In fact, the closest “prettiest place” to Chicago isn’t in Illinois, Wisconsin, or Indiana. It’s actually in Iowa, with Maquoketa Caves State Park checking in 300 miles from town.