An online travel magazine recently revealed its list of the most beautiful places in each of the 50 states, and its choice for Illinois may come as a surprise to some residents.
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 so many more, Travel & Leisure’s editorial staff ended up choosing Cache River State Natural Area as it’s “Most Beautiful Place” in the Land of Lincoln.
“You might think you’re deep in a Louisiana bayou in this bald cypress and tupelo swamp, the northernmost of its kind in the U.S.,” the magazine said.
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the park is located in 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 that the park has been designated as a “Wetland of International Importance” because of its importance to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.
Visitors can check out the park in a myriad of ways, including hiking, biking and canoeing, according to the IDNR.
For Chicago residents, the site does represent a bit of a haul travel-wise. The park’s entrance is approximately 353 miles from NBC Tower in Chicago, representing a drive of nearly six hours.
By contrast, the Indiana winner of the “Most Beautiful Place,” Hemlock Cliffs, is 300 miles from 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 terms of distance from the Windy City.
In fact, the closest “Most Beautiful Place” to Chicago isn’t in Illinois, Wisconsin or Indiana. It’s actually in Iowa, with Maquoketa Caves State Park checking in at a breezy 192 miles from the city.