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Cache River

©Illinois State Water Survey

Location: The Cache River is located at the southern tip of Illinois. The upper reach flows through the hills of the Ozark plateau; the lower Cache flows through flatter coastal plain where drainage is slow and wetlands become more abundant.

Description: The Cache River State Natural Area is situated in southernmost Illinois within a floodplain carved long ago by glacial floodwater of the Ohio River. When the Ohio River adopted its present course, it left the Cache River to meander across rich and vast wetlands. Among the outstanding natural features found within the area today are massive cypress trees whose flared bases, called buttresses, exceed 40 feet circumference. Many of these trees are more than 1,000 years old, including one that has earned the title of state champion bald cypress because of its huge trunk girth, towering height, and heavily branched canopy.

The Cache River shares a common border with the Illinois Ozarks; the large, contiguous forests that occur along the boundary are split into the two parts. Significant natural features that represent forest, wetland, and aquatic habitats are found at Horseshoe Lake, an old oxbow of the Mississippi River. Near-virgin woods of beech, sugar maple, swamp chestnut oak, and American elm grow on the island in the middle of the lake. Bald cypress, tupelo, swamp cottonwood, willow, and buttonbush are found in the shallow water. Several interesting and rare species are known from here, including the spotted gar, pugnose minnow, green treefrog, mole salamander, broad-banded water snake, green water snake, prothonotary warbler, red-shouldered hawk, big-eared bat, and rice rat. In Illinois, the green treefrog is limited to the extreme southern tip of the state.

Swimming under or on the tea-colored waters of the Cache are numerous fish, amphibians and reptiles. Channel catfish, crappie, bass and bluegill are prized by area fishermen. Less sought after, but true swamp fish, include the bowfin, needlenose gar, grass pickerel and yellow bullhead catfish. Pygmy sunfish and cypress minnows are two state-endangered fish found only in wetlands dominated by forested swamps.



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Additional Information: Scientific and educational use of the Cache area is allowed by permit, issued by the Department of Natural Resources. For information about the permit, hunting and fishing regulations, or the site in general, contact:

Cache River State Natural Area
930 Sunflower Lane
Belknap, IL 62908
(618) 634-9678

Henry Barkhausen Cache River Wetlands Center,
8885 State Route 37 South
Cypress, Illinois 62923
(618) 657-2064.