Red Hill State Park is an undeveloped state park in the northeast corner of the U.S. state of Illinois, about 12 miles (19km) east of Carlinville and about 3 miles (5km) south of Oglesby. The park contains a hardwood forest with many streams and waterfalls on its 1,300 acres (530ha), which are held back by an ancient red claystone called Kankakee lignite that lies beneath the surface.
This geological formation dates from the Devonian period; it consists mainly of soft shale and siltstone with some layers of harder sandstone and limestone. In the earlier days of European settlement, this area was claimed by both the French and then later English settlers, who named it La Salle Island because they thought it looked like an island. Eventually the native-born Americans won the right to call the entire region their own. They renamed it Illiniwek or Illinoy, which translates to “land of the long fish” in the Delaware tongue. When William Williams, one of the first white men to explore the region, came across what he believed to be an island, he dubbed it “La Isle au Chamailles”, which means “The Island at the Ford”. Later, when he realized his error, he renamed the area “L’Isle dans le Foret”, meaning “the Island in the Forest”–a name that has been retained for the small island just west of Route 113 known as “Pelican Island.”
There are ten trails ranging from easy to moderate difficulty, plus snowshoeing and ice skating as well. The campground features 60 campsites, 30 with electrical hookups, modern rest rooms and showers, dump station, vending machine, picnic table, and tent pad. Half of the sites are available on a first come, first served basis, while the remainder must be reserved. The park receives nearly 640,000 visitors annually. Red Hill State Park is located in northeastern part of the U.S. state of Illinois, approximately 12 miles (19km) east of Carlinville and 3 miles (5km) south of Oglesby. Its main feature is a steep slope overlooking a valley filled with numerous glacial erratics, i.e., boulders carried far from their northern sources by glaciers during the last ice age.
During the 1770s, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, built Fort Detroit around the necks of two large hills. He named them Mount Royal and Petit Bourbon, after the kings of France and Spain, respectively. After his fort fell into disrepair during the winter of 1779/1780, the British captured it and kept it until late December 1781, when they relinquished it to the now independent Americans. At the time, most of western New York and Pennsylvania were under the control of the British, who had also taken over Canada. General John Forbes, whose force had fought alongside George Washington’s troops at Valley Forge the previous year, planned to build a road from Cumberland, Maryland, through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, and Buffalo to Albany, where another road would take him north to Schenectady and eventually to Montreal.
A team led by Cadwallader Cresap surveyed a route from Western Pennsylvania to the Southern Ontario shoreline, but Cresap failed to return with a report on how deep the river could safely be navigated. As a result, Forbes abandoned the idea of using the Allegheny River as a supply line, and instead relied upon the Hudson River route through New Jersey and the Connecticut River via the Kennebec Trail in Massachusetts. However, before these roads could be improved, the British again seized Fort Detroit, this time holding it throughout the American Revolutionary War. Although the British no longer controlled all of North America, they continued to pose a threat to trade routes in the Midwest. To protect against possible raids by aggressive Native Americans, a series of forts was constructed along the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers. One such fortress, Fort Massac, stood near present-day Rockport, Indiana.
Another, Fort Pitt, was built around the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, in present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Designed primarily as a place of refuge for traders, prisoners of war, and others, Fort Massac proved vulnerable to attack by land. On June 2, 1774, three hundred Indians staged a game of bag’gat’tway (“lacrosse”) outside the fort, and invited all comers. Over four hundred people showed up, including women, children, and infants. While the gate guard tried to prevent the unauthorised entry, several soldiers made futile attempts to repulse the attackers. Twenty-four hours later, half of those inside died from starvation or exposure. Following this massacre, the fort lay undefended against the powerful Iroquois, who raided it repeatedly. In September 1774, seventy-five Abenakis attacked Fort Massac, killing five soldiers in the only known military action involving the stockade. Soon afterwards, however, the Iroquois suffered a major defeat at the hands of General John Burgoyne’s forces, and the threat of Indian raid diminished significantly.
With the danger of open warfare past, the individual nations of the Iroquois Confederacy sought to maintain good relations with the new nation formed by the colonies. As a result, trading between the various tribes was resumed, and even expanded. By the end of the decade, the demand for lumber reached southern Vermont, where pine trees were harvested for use in the Navy. Lumbermen crossed the Appalachian Mountains and set up sawmills wherever there was enough standing timber. Nearly every tree was logged at least once, and many twice or more. Once the original stands were gone, the forests struggled to regrow, and soon the mountains were covered with second growth woodlands of oak and other slow growing trees. The destruction of the forests went hand in hand with the development of transportation infrastructure. Canals were dug, roads paved, and railroads laid down. Logging railways brought logs out of the mountains to the sawmill, while railroad logging stations supplied freshly cut timbers to the rapidly expanding building trades.
The forests were gone by the early 20th century, stripped bare except for occasional patches left to provide firewood for the few charcoal ovens still used in isolated farms. But then something happened that changed everything. An enterprising young man named Russell Baum bought land near Stony Brook, in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, with plans to create a resort similar to Saratoga Spa. His dream came true in 1922, when he opened the Hotel Meade, complete with bowling alley, billiard room, and tennis courts. Two years later, he added cabins, and in 1926 he began developing the property as a vacation destination. The hotel became very popular, especially among members of Congress and the Supreme Court. President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the spa in 1934, and in 1937 he signed legislation creating Lake Geneva, a federal recreation area straddling the border of Wisconsin and Illinois. Five years later, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) arrived, adding additional amenities and constructing buildings designed by noted Chicago architect Louis Schollier. The corps disbanded in 1935, but work continued under private contractors until 1941, when funds ran out. Additional funding was provided in 1944, and the project was completed in 1952, when the official dedication took place. Named in honor of Governor Adlai E. Stevenson II, the site became a state park in 1960.
The park offers:
- picnicking facilities
- boat launch
- cross-country skiing