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Southeastern Illinois Bicycling

Welcome to Southeastern Illinois

District 7 covers a region from Vandalia and Effingham south to Mt. Vernon and Carmi and east to the Wabash River. Counties covered are Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Richland, Shelby, Wabash, and Wayne as well as portions of adjacent counties. Stop and take some time to enjoy the rural scenery and local history of this region.

The Terrain

The land through southeastern Illinois is gently rolling with a few larger hills near river and creek beds and along ridges. Like much of the rest of the state, this land is primarily agricultural. Low bluffs line parts of the Wabash River while moraines and low ridges occasionally break the generally flat terrain. There are many attractive tree-lined valleys along most rivers and streams. In many areas, you will find picturesque rural scenes worthy of a Currier and Ives print: farms nestled between low hills, meadows hedged by rows of trees, and streams winding through fields and pastures. In August and September the corn stands seven feet tall, lining country roads throughout the region.

Lakes, Rivers, and Streams

This area includes Newton Lake in Jasper County. It is primarily a fishing lake although there are hiking trails in the adjacent fish and wildlife areas.

The Wabash River forms the eastern boundary of this region. There are plenty of public access points as well as places to bank fish. A significant conservation area along the Wabash is Beall Woods State Natural Area, located in southern Wabash County. This bottomland forest is the largest stand of virgin timber left in Illinois. Unusually large trees stand testimony to the age of this forest. Take your mosquito repellent if you decide to hike the trails. Other country roads access the Wabash River at many points; however, some of these roads are suitable for mountain bikes only.

Plants and Animals

Thanks to aggressive cultivation of the land, corn and soybeans dominate the flora in southeastern Illinois as they do in much of the rest of the state. Many birds and animals have adapted to farmed areas, while along streams and lakes and in state parks and conservation areas, a number of native species flourish.

Typical wooded areas fall under two broad categories: oak-hickory uplands and elm-ash-soft maple bottomlands. Other species found are beech—more prevalent in the eastern half of the region—and widely scattered groves of sugar maple, as well as walnut, sycamore, willow, cottonwood, horse chestnut, and gum. Pine trees exist almost exclusively in plantations and are not native to the area. A few native stands of tall-grass prairie are still in existence—primarily on protected lands.

A number of animal species feel at home in the corn and soybean fields, most prominent being the red-winged blackbird roosting on fences and reflectorized poles next to fields. Robins, blue jays, and a number of other birds also are common in farmed areas.

Deer are ubiquitous, having adapted well to the agriculturalization of the area. Of course, squirrels can be found wherever there are stands of trees—or friendly people sharing popcorn or nuts with these furry creatures. The rare white squirrel can only be found in and around Olney. These squirrels are protected by law and have the right-of-way wherever they go.

In wooded areas raccoons and rabbits are more common. Less common, but still frequently spotted are a variety of nonpoisonous snakes such as the garter and the prairie king. Poisonous species are quite rare, although an occasional copperhead may be found around the Wabash River. The endangered timber rattler is found in isolated spots throughout the region, but rarely encounters. Snakes tend to be more common in the southern portions of the region. Frogs of all types haunt wetlands and lakes and can be heard most summer nights. Occasionally, small lizards may be spotted.

Conservation and Recreation Areas

The State of Illinois manages a number of scenic natural areas where hiking, fishing, camping, and picnicking can be enjoyed in natural settings. Although many sites have trails, please note that bicycles are not allowed on any unpaved trails unless otherwise indicated.

Bicycle Paths, Rides, and Routes

Most bicycling opportunities are on the abundant low-volume local roads in rural areas. Although generally flat, there are many low hills in this region—more so to the south and east.