There's more to life in Southern Illinois.

Cache River Nature Fest 

Mother Nature is calling you home.

The Cache is a special place that highlights nature. It is a unique place that claims some of the oldest living trees east of the Mississippi River and harbors 91 percent of Illinois' high-quality swamp habitat, providing homes for a great variety of plants and animals seldom matched in the Midwest. More than 230 species of birds are found in the Cache, including black vultures, pileated woodpeckers, snowy egrets, yellow and black crowned night herons, little blue herons, hooded mergansers, wood ducks, prothonotary warblers and the state-endangered barn owl. Other resident wildlife includes deer, squirrels, red and grey foxes, mink, bobcats, river otters and a host of frogs, toads, snakes and turtles. More than 30,000 acres in the Cache River Watershed are managed by Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and the Cache River State Natural Area. Most of these lands are open to hiking, wildlife watching, hunting, fishing and canoeing, providing many opportunities to explore the Cache.

At this year’s Nature Fest, we will offer a variety of activities that highlight the diverse plants and animals of the Cache River/Cypress Creek watersheds. Hikes and outings will take place on designated trails; however, it is important to wear appropriate footwear for canoeing, sturdy shoes for land excursions and to dress for the weather. Consider bringing water, snacks, binoculars, field guides, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and anything else that might make your outdoor experience more enjoyable.

All activities are free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required for the Friday night hike and Saturday canoe tours: to make a reservation, call Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge at 618-634-2231. 


Friday September 8 

“Night of the Living Cache” Spotlight Hike 

(7pm program/8pm hike)

Join entomologists Michael Jeffords and Susan Post for a unique look at the nighttime forest and its fascinating inhabitants! Meet at the Ullin Fire Station (125 Railroad Street, Ullin) to learn more about hunting spiders, predaceous beetles, tree frogs and other creatures of the night. Then, caravan the four miles to Limekiln Springs on Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, where we'll use a penlight to explore the deep, dark woods. 

Advance registration is required: call Cypress Creek at 618-634-2231.

Saturday September 9
(all activities are located at Ullin Ball Park unless otherwise listed) 

Hiking Tour of Glass Hill

10:00am - 12:00pm

A guided walking tour to the top of Glass Hill will highlight the area's early Native American and unique natural history. Learn about primitive/ancestral skills and try fire lighting methods like those used by Native Americans. Sign up at the Information Table at Ullin Ball Park on Saturday morning and caravan to Glass Hill (on Dongola Road just southwest of Cypress).

Take the Cache Challenge - Win a Cache Magnet

All Day
Calling all youth (under 18) to take the Cache Challenge! Attend at least four of the activities listed on the "punch card" and win a collectible Cache River Wetlands magnet. Pick up your card at the Information Table to record program attendance - the completed card can be redeemed for a magnet.

Cache River Wetlands Center
9:00am - 4:00pm
Operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the center offeres interpretive exhibits, a wildlife viewing area, demonstration pollinator gardens, and walking trails through wetland and praire communities. Be sure to place your silent auction bid on the stunning wildflower quilt hanging displayed in the auditorium, created by Shawnee Quilters of Southern Illinois. All proceeds from the silent auction will be used for educational programs in the Cache. (Located on State Rte. 37, three miles south of Cypress)
Birds of Prey Show
1:00pm & 3:00pm

Join staff from Free Again Wildlife Rehabilitation for an up close and personal view of live owls, hawks and other avian predators. Wildlife rehabilitator Beverly Shofstall will share fascinating facts about the natural history of each species and current issues facing raptors in the wild. 

Asian Carp Fry – FREE Tasting
All Day
Stop by our Asian Carp Fry tent to learn the tricks of filleting and preparing Asian Carp, and even try a FREE sample of this surprisingly mild and delicious fish! Bighead and Silver Carp have invaded the Cache River and other major waterways, crowding out native species, but we can beat ‘em if we eat em’!

Cold-blooded Creatures of the Cache

All Day

How can you tell a male box turtle from a female? If you step on a cottonmouth snake, does it bite? What kind of lizard has a blue tipped tail? Learn answers to these questions and get an up-close look at snakes, lizards, frogs, toads and salamanders found in the Cache River Wetlands. 

Partners for Wildlife

All Day

Find out how you can participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Anyone can be a partner: farmer, ranchers, city dwellers, local or government agencies, private organizations, educational institutions - anyone interested in improving and protecting wildlife habitat. 

Duck I.D. 

All Day

Do you know the difference between a Mallard and a Wood Duck? Test your skill with the waterfowl identification wind board! Learn how to identify common waterfowl species from Ducks Unlimited staff, who can also answer questions about waterfowl hunting opportunities in southern Illinois. 

University of Illinois Extension Forestry

All Day

Find out more about resources available in southern Illinois for keeping forests healthy, identifying trees and battling invasive species. Kids (and the young at heart!): check out the "Discovery Box" to see if you can identify by touch some of the objects found in our forests.

Kidz Corner

All Day
Bring your family over to Kidz Corner for hands-on fun, sure to inspire nature lovers of all ages! Encourage your kids to "Get WILD" by using wildlife track stamps to create their own bandanas or showing off their love for nature with a bird tattoo (temporary) or face paint! 


IDNR Conservation Trailer

All Day
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police will be on hand to answer questions about hunting, fishing and other recreational activities. Be sure to visit their "Wildlife Education Program" trailer, which serves as a visual, educational tool for youngsters interested in the outdoors. 

Cache River Wetlands Canoe Tour
Tours offered throughout the day
Take an unforgettable voyage through Buttonland Swamp – a National Natural Landmark that features thousand-year-old cypress trees and a diversity of wildlife. This guided paddle is perfect for the beginning canoeist and a great way for anyone to experience the beauty of the Cache River Wetlands. Space is limited and advance reservations are required: call Cypress Creek at 618-634-2231.