Fort Massac State Park was the first state park in Illinois.
This Illinois State Park offers many activities, including historical reference, cycling, hiking, disk golf, boating, and more. There is even a substantial world-famous encampment that occurs here each year.
Being so close to Fort Massac State Park, I usually try to visit once a week or more to enjoy a bike trail without the worry of speeding vehicles. Plus, the view of the Ohio River is excellent each time I visit. And, of course, the dining options in town make it worth the trip.
So, let’s take a look at why you should add visiting Fort Massac to your list of state parks to explore and enjoy with my free guide.
How to get to Fort Massac State Park
Getting to Fort Massac State Park is easy. You can take the Metropolis/Brookport Exit on Interstate 24 and go to the park shortly after.
All the roads to the park are paved and very maintained, so any vehicle should be able to make it there. During the winter, some of the inner park roads may not be plowed as often as other roads outside the park. Please use caution when visiting the park during wintry conditions.
If you are visiting by bicycling (touring from other states), the best ways to get here are using the Cave-in-Rock Ferry to cross the Ohio River or the Cape Bridge to cross the Mississippi River. There is a bridge crossing in Brookport, Illinois, but the bridge is very narrow, and the structure of it is graded, which might make it difficult for bicycle traffic.
There are adequate parking spaces and bike racks throughout the park.
What to do at Fort Massac State Park
There is a lot to do at Fort Massac State Park.
The park has something for everyone.
I enjoy many different activities in the park every time I visit.
Let’s see what it has to offer you!
The Replica of Fort Massac
Fort Massac State Park was named after the fort that once stood within its grounds. That fort was ancient and eventually torn down, but a replica fort depicting what it could have looked like is now up nearby where the original fort stood.
You can visit the replica fort when you visit the park. You can walk around the fort’s courtyard and check out the buildings within the fort. At this time, you cannot go into the buildings, but we hope that you will eventually be able to do so again.
I enjoy walking to the fort when I visit the park. It makes for enjoyable photo opportunities. I also really enjoy local southern Illinois history, too.
Be sure to check out the fort when you visit because it’s one of the main features of the State Park.
Hiking and Biking Trails
There are some hiking and biking opportunities within Fort Massac State Park that you might enjoy.
There is an 8.8-mile rail trail called the George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail. This old railway was a primarily paved trail for biking, running, and hiking. There are a lot of scenic views of the park and the Ohio River along this trail. You can also continue your ride on a bike route through Brookport if you wish to gain more mileage.
I enjoy taking my bike on this trail and adding the roads throughout the park to get about 10 miles worth biking in.
A few hiking trails will also take you through the grasslands and wooded areas of the park. The one-mile loop Drouillard Creek Trail takes you by trees with signage to help you identify what trees you’re seeing. The 2.5-mile Hickory Nut Ridge Trail also gives you plenty of scenic views of the Ohio River. The hiking trails at Fort Massac State Park are easy and appropriate for people of all ages.
Note that during river flooding events, some of the trails may be underwater as this park sits on the Ohio River.
Camping and Shelter Rental
The park features 50 Class A electrical campsites that you can Reserve Online or by talking with the campground host upon arrival. There are also tent campsites available.
There is a disposal station, restrooms, potable water, and a new shower house. There are four covered shelters available for rent using the Online Reservation System.
I think the new shower house is one of the best-looking facilities in all of the state parks I have been to. I also know many locals who enjoy camping at the park (rather than traveling elsewhere) because it is so scenic and well taken care of.
Do note that the campground fills up quickly during the encampment and hunting season.
Disc Golf Course
There is an 18-hole disc golfing course throughout Fort Massac State Park. Users may choose a nine-hole or another format while using the course.
Disc golf has become a top-rated outdoor competition. The course within the park is spread throughout, enabling participants plenty of walking and exercise while they enjoy the game and the views the park offers.
I have a friend who told me that the disc golf course at Fort Massac is one of the most challenging courses, making it even better for the overall challenge of completing it.
If you haven’t tried the course at Fort Massac yet, you’re probably missing out.
Hunting and Fishing
Hunting and fishing are allowed in non-restricted sections of the park.
You may hunt squirrel, rabbit, dove, and woodcock game. Deer hunting is restricted to archery only. Please see the hunting fact sheet and hunting map and for more information, contact the site office. Fishing is also permitted in areas of the park along the Ohio River. You’ll find bullhead, carp, catfish, crappie, drum, and largemouth bass.
I’ve heard that many hunters enjoy harvesting squirrels from the park, and fishing always goes on every time I visit.
Illinois hunting and fishing licenses are required for game harvest and fishing within the state park.
Boating and River Access
A small boat dock and ramp can be accessed from the park. This is for the Ohio River. There is a small parking lot at the dock and ramp. There are no fees to use this area.
This area and sections along the river and the fort are also great for viewing the Ohio River.
I like to visit the walkway by the replica fort that leads to the old fort location to check out the scenic Ohio River.
If you’re looking for photo opportunities, there is an excellent spot for them.
A visitor center for Fort Massac State Park is located near the replica fort area.
You can visit the Visitor Center during the daytime hours during the week to get park information and see a museum with park history, artifacts from the old fort, and Native American artifacts on display.
If you’re a history buff like me, you’ll love going to the visitor center.
Be sure to call the park office to ensure the visitor center is open before you visit.
Fort Massac State Park Encampment
Every year, a world-famous encampment is held at Fort Massac State Park, an event that many locals and non-locals look forward to attending.
The encampment is held on a weekend in October for two days. It includes a reenactment of the 1700s era when the fort was being used as an actual fort. Many people dress up in period clothing for the event. There are many shops and food options set up. People from all over the world attend the encampment event.
I love to go there to watch the soldier reenactors march and play their instruments while eating some delicious locally-made food.
While visiting the encampment, walk around and check out all the little craft shops to see some cool locally-made gifts.
History of Fort Massac State Park
Fort Massac State Park has a rich history. The fort has a long history that once stood where the park is today. But the park is also the first state park in all of Illinois. You might say Fort Massac started all the state parks in the state.
The fort was first created in 1542 by the Spanish to protect themselves from hostile Indian forces. In the 1700s, the fort was maintained and used by the French. By 1794, the fort had been destroyed, but President George Washington ordered the fort to be rebuilt. In 1803, the Lewis and Clark expedition stopped by Fort Massac for a brief period. The fort was used during the Civil War. In 1903, the Daughters of the American Revolution petitioned for the state to create a park, and Illinois created its first State Park. By 1973, the replica fort and museum were finished being built.
I enjoy seeing the museum and learning more about Fort Massac. I also enjoy visiting the old fort site and the new fort replica. It would be a great learning experience for homeschooling, field trips, and families wanting to learn North American history.
You’ll enjoy your visit to the first State Park in Illinois.
Dining, Lodging, Shopping, and Sightseeing Nearby
Fort Massac State Park resides in the Metropolis, Illinois, in Massac County. Metropolis isn’t just a typical river town, either.
The name “Metropolis” probably sounds familiar to you. That’s because it is the Home of Superman. That’s right – Metropolis, Illinois – is the official Home of Superman.
I’m proud to call Metropolis my home. I’ve lived in Metropolis for a few years now and enjoy living in this small community!
When visiting Fort Massac, you can stop by Metropolis and see what our little town has to offer you!
Dining in Metropolis
There are many dining options in Metropolis. You can pretty much find any sort of food options you want throughout the town.
If you like pizza, check Super City Bar and Grill or Cordavino’s for a more Italian-styled pie. Fat Edd’s Roadhouse has delicious burgers and all the peel-and-eat shrimp you can handle. If you like home-cooked styled meals, check out Just Like Moma’s and Yesterday’s. For Chinese cuisine, check out the China House Buffet, and there are El Tequilas for Mexican food. If you’re a BBQ fan, check out Bill’s BBQ. For sweets and treats, you got to check out Sissy’s Sweet Shop and Frosted by Mollie.
I love to hit different places to eat each time we visit so I can get a great variety of other food options. There are a lot of great places to eat in the Metropolis.
When visiting Metropolis, be sure to bring an appetite!
Lodging in Metropolis
There are a lot of lodging options available in Metropolis.
You can camp at the State Park with your RV or tent if you prefer camping. There are also plenty of Hotels in the Metropolis to choose from. Metropolis is also the Home of Harrah’s Casino, with a hotel attached to it.
Staying in Metropolis for the night gives you plenty of opportunities to check out Fort Massac State Park and other sightseeing opportunities in the area.
Shopping in Metropolis
There are a lot of shopping opportunities throughout Metropolis for you to enjoy during your visit or stay in our lovely little community.
Head over to the square to find many great shops to choose from. You’ll enjoy The 606 Market, Friends & Company, Super City Antiques, and ReFind Junktique Market for antiques and re-purposed goods. If you want boutiques, Metropolis has its fair share of those, including Ribbons & Beaus for Children, Sixth & Vintage, Silver Collections, and West End Plaza, which also does custom work. Check out Back of the Closet for consignment buys. We also have florists, gifts, groceries, and more around Metropolis.
I love that you can find just about anything you want to buy in Metropolis.
Just look around, and you’ll find something that you’d love to have.
Like I said earlier in the guide, Metropolis is the Home of Superman, and we sure have many Superman stuff to check out.
First of all, we have a few events on an annual basis that you might want to check out, including the Superman Festival and a Comic Con Event. Celebrities even come to these events! Check out the Superman Statue and the Louis Lane Statue. Be sure to head to the Superman Museum to see all sorts of excellent Superman historical items, movie props, and more.
I always look forward to the Superman Bike Ride by the Kawana’s that happens every year during the Superman Festival. If you like organized road bike rides, you should check this ride out.
If you’re into Superman and the likes, Metropolis is a little town you should have on your bucket list to visit!
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Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
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Founder, Hiking with Shawn
Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman