Day Trip,  Hikes,  Illinois

Visit Illinois’s First State Park at Fort Massac

Fort Massac State Park is located in far southern Illinois along the Ohio River. Located in the town of Metropolis, this park is a must see. The history and views of this park make it a great road trip stop if driving on I-24.


The French first erected a fort here in 1757 which was then surrendered to the British. George Rogers Clark, the older brother of William Clark, led a group of men who captured the fort in 1778. President George Washington ordered in 1794 for the fort to be fortified and rebuilt. Fort Massac became a major port of entry for early settlers entering Illinois county.

Lewis and Clark arrived at Fort Massac on November 11, 1803. After recruiting two volunteers for their expedition, they departed on November 13th. The 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes caused major damage to the fort. Although the fort was repaired, by 1814 it was abandoned. Early settlers stripped away the fort materials to use in their own building projects.

In 1903, the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased 24 acres surrounding the site. On November 5, 1908, it was officially dedicated as Illinois’ first state park. A replica of the 1802 era fort was reconstructed in 2002. In 2010, an 8 mile bike trail was built which runs through the park. Today, visitors can find a visitor’s center and museum, the fort, hiking trails, and a campground.

Visitor’s Center & Museum

A first stop when visiting should be the Visitor’s Center. You can find restrooms here as well as the museum. The museum tells about the history of the era and displays interesting artifacts discovered here. There is also a movie available to watch to learn more about the site.

The Fort

The Fort site is the highlight of the park. Several replica buildings have been constructed. While you cannot go inside the structures, they are interesting to view from the outside.

You can catch some great views of the Ohio River and the bridge to Paducah behind the fort. Follow the path to the right and you can see a statue and plaque built in memory of George Rogers Clark.

Past the statue you can see the earthen remains of the original fort walls.

Recreation Activities

The park has several miles of hiking trail available as shown on the map. The 1-mile Drouillard Creek trail leaves near the fort to travel through the woods. This trail is a Forest Watch Tree Identification Trail. The Hickory Nut Trail travels along the Ohio River and passes under I-24. This trail can close due to flooding. We didn’t have time to hike these trails but hope to explore them another time.

The George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail was built in 2010. This ADA accessible walking/biking trail starts at the 5th St. Park entrance and travels 8.8 miles. This path can also flood which can lead to debris on the trail. The area over Massac Creek floods the most. The trail can also be accessed at the east end off Strawberry Road.

The park has a boat ramp into the Ohio River. Picnic tables and shelters are scattered throughout. The campground features 50 sites. New restrooms have been built and a new shower house is under construction. Road improvements are also underway. The campground is very shaded.

The fort hosts several events throughout the year. The biggest event is the Fort Massac Encampment each October. This multi-day event is family friendly with reenactments, music, food, and activities to provide education and entertainment about colonial life.

Additional Things to Know:

  • A park map be found here.
  • Admission to the park is free.
  • The visitor’s center is open 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Restrooms are located at the visitor’s center or several vault toilets are located throughout the park.

While in Metropolis, don’t miss the giant Superman statue and Superman Museum downtown. This small town is known as the official home of Superman.

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