Hiking with Shawn’s
Trail Guide Series:
Heron Pond Preserve is a special gem of the southern Illinois region. Located in rural Johnson County, Heron Pond provides a look into what the area once looked like before pioneer settlers came in and drained the wetlands and cut all the trees down. Heron Pond is a swamp and wetland environment situated near the Cache River. Heron Pond is a part of the Cache River State Natural Area managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Heron Pond is home to many mammals, amphibians, snakes, reptiles and all sorts of different rare plant and flora species.
There are many recreational opportunities available at Heron Pond including hiking, nature viewing, birding, herping, fishing, gaming and photography. Visitors to Heron Pond can enjoy a nature trail with a boardwalk over the pond itself, beautiful views of the Cache River and Dutchman Creek waterways, unique views of cypress trees and even a look at a very large and old State Champion Cherry-bark Oak Tree right along the trail.
There is adequate parking available at the trailhead, information signage, bicycle racks and restrooms. No potable water sources or electricity is available at Heron Pond. Camping is not allowed. This area is for day-user only.
Please visit Friends of the Cache River Watershed who support the efforts of Heron Pond, Cache River and Cypress Creek Refuge through events, fundraising, volunteerism and conservation. Consider becoming a member to help protect this and other areas along the Cache River.
Directions and Trail Information
To get to the Heron Pond Trailhead from Vienna: At Highway 45 & 146 in Vienna, take Highway 45 south for 5 miles to Belknap Road, then go west 1.5 miles to narrow gravel road (Heron Pond Lane), crossing the Tunnel Hill State Trail and continuing to the end of the road where the trailhead is located. After you cross the bike trail, the road becomes narrow as you curve up a hill. Please drive slowly in case you meet another vehicle but most importantly, drive slowly for the family that lives just around the curve. Please respect private property.
See this map of the area where Heron Pond is located.
The main Heron Pond trail is considered easy to hike and 1.5-miles in length with and out and back combined loop segment. This trail includes many interpretive signs about the natural features of the area, views of the Cache River and wetlands, bridges and stepping-stones and a boardwalk across the pond for ultimate swamp nature viewing.
There is a short Linkage Trail past the start of the Heron Pond swamp loop that will take you to the State Champion Cherry-bark Oak Tree. This linkage trail is less than a quarter of a mile.
Little Black Slough and Boss Island can be accessed for an addition 5.5-miles from Heron Pond and the champion tree. Tupelo Trail and Wildcat Bluff can also be accessed from Heron Pond trailhead. All of these trails combined out and back can give a hiker more than 20-miles of distance.
These trails are reserved for hiking only. Motorized vehicles, bicycles and equestrian users are prohibited from using these trails.
Emergency medical, fire and law enforcement situations should be handled by calling 911.
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is the responding agency for this area.
Poison ivy and venomous copperhead and cottonmouth snakes occur in this area. These hazards are significantly more likely to be encountered when going off the designated trail.
Due to the wetland conditions in this area, mosquitoes tend to be heavier in this area during the warmer months. It is advised that you use appropriate repellent solutions to prevent bites and potential diseases that could accompany the bites.
The nearest hospital to this trailhead is in Metropolis or Anna, both with are over 20-miles away.
Flooding will occur in this area during heavy rains and trails will likely be inaccessible.
As of Spring 2021, construction along the trail has been done to prevent the pond from emptying out. The construction has caused the trail to become muddy during wet conditions.
Other Stuff Around Here
For camping nearby of Wildcat Bluff, check out Shawnee Forest Campground in Vienna for tent and RV sites with electrical hookup sites. While in Vienna, check out our favorite places to eat Wildfires Steakhouse which happens to be the old Ranger Station and Ned’s Shed for some awesome burgers. Other nearby outdoor recreation areas include Wildcat Bluff for hiking and nature viewing, Mermet Lake for boating and fishing and Tunnel Hill State Trail for cycling and running.
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
One last thing!
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Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.