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Fort Massac and the Superhero of Metropolis

Barracks, Fort Massac State Park. Photo by Michelle Snow.

Barracks, Fort Massac State Park. Photo by Michelle Snow.

You have to travel to the very southern portion of Illinois to discover one of its hidden treasures, the stalwart Fort Massac, near Metropolis, Illinois. Overlooking the Ohio River, this replica of the original 1802 American fort is Illinois’ first state park, dedicated in 1908.

The area has a long history of forts, the first built by the French in 1757, Fort De L’Ascension, which was burned down in 1763 by Chickasaw Indians. The archeological outline of the 1757 fort still exists. In 1794 President George Washington ordered the fort rebuilt, by now renamed Massac, only to be ravaged by the New Madrid Earthquake, before being subsequently rebuilt again in 1812. Finally, after being abandoned in 1814, the fort was dismantled by local citizens for timber by 1828.

The historic fort area contains 2 barracks, 3 block houses, officer quarters, well, and stockade along with a fraise fence. There is also a visitors’ center/office complex along with an area for the museum.

On October 17 and 18, the Annual Fort Massac Encampment celebrates the history of the Fort from the early French Period through 1814. Military Units, Colonists, Sutlers (merchants who followed the military camps), and Native American reenactors portray the history of the fort with crafts, military drills, music, children games and a mock battle. The best part is, admission is free!

The state park also includes picnic areas, hiking trails and camp grounds.

What to Do

If you can time your visit right, be sure to enjoy the Fort Massac Encampment reenactment. Just be warned that it typically attracts large crowds! In any case, you’ll want to explore the fort itself and delve into its history at the visitors center, where you can watch a history video about the fort and peruse the prehistoric artifact display.

There are two hiking trails in the park. A 1 mile loop trail takes you through grassy woods and starts and ends at the Fort. This is a designated Forest Watch Tree Identification Trail and is a great opportunity to teach your kids or yourself about the trees in the area! Be sure to pick up a brochure at the visitors center before heading out.

The second trail is the 2.5 mile Hickory Nut Ridge Trail that takes you along the scenic Ohio River.

Superman Statue, Metropolis, Illinois. Photo by J. Stephen Conn.

Superman Statue, Metropolis, Illinois. Photo by J. Stephen Conn.

Once you’ve had your fill of the Fort Massac, drive a mile into the town of Metropolis and visit the Superman statue near the downtown square. Metropolis is home to the Superman Celebration every June, but you can still visit the Super Museum (admission is $5 ages 6 and above), the Metropolis Planet (the local newspaper offices) and local shops dedicated to the comic book character.

Where to Eat

Try the award winning BBQ at Big Daddy’s BBQ on 310 West 10th Street, just two blocks from Fort Massac State Park. They have some funny hours, 4 am to 4 pm, and t they’re closed on Sundays and Mondays.

If BBQ isn’t your thing, travel a few blocks further up the street to Diamond Lil’s Family Restaurant at 810 West 10th Street. They serve good home cooked meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week except Sunday, when they only serve lunch. Call for hours, 618-524-5106.

If you really want to go local, check out Farley’s Cafeteria on 613 Market Street, just steps away from the Superman statue. This is a longtime local favorite. The food is cafeteria-style, so it’ll be perfect if you’re feeding a hungry family. They’re only open from 3:30 pm to 7 pm on Wednesday through Saturday.

Where to Stay

At Fort Massac State Park there are 50 Class A vehicular campsites with electricity, a disposal station and a shower building. If pitching a tent and doing it the old fashioned way is more your thing, you can do that too!

Summers Riverview Mansion Bed & Breakfast

Summers Riverview Mansion Bed & Breakfast

If you want some history, but with a few more creature comforts you can head into Metropolis and stay at the Summers Riverview Mansion Bed & Breakfast. This 1889 Victorian mansion has five rooms and sits just one block from the Ohio River. Call toll-free at 1-877-524-5328 or email for information and reservations.

Another unique place about 13 miles northeast of Metropolis is the Old Bethlehem School Cottage. This cottage, set on the edge of the Shawnee National Forest with scenic views of the rolling hills, used to be a one-room schoolhouse. It’s now a cottage with 3 bedrooms, large eat-in kitchen, living room and bath. Call 618-524-4922 or 618-645-0319, or email Judy Long, the innkeeper, at for information and reservations.

Kitchen, Bethlehem School Cottage

Kitchen, Bethlehem School Cottage

For a listing of other hotels and inns, check the Metropolis Tourism website.

Related posts:

  1. Fall Outings in Southern Illinois
  2. Superman’s Hometown: Arkansas Diamond Mining Day Five and Six
  3. The River Pirates of Cave-In-Rock
  4. Garden of the Gods: Visiting Southern Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest
  5. Ohio’s Ozone Zipline Adventures Announces Major Expansion With Longer Zip Lines

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