The rugged beauty of the Shawnee National Forest makes Pope County a place to visit over and over. Visitors will find much to do and see ranging from fishing and swimming at Lake Glendale to the rugged cliffs, clear streams, the natural bridge at Bell Smith Springs, and the Southern Illinois Wine Trail.
Many of the locations areeasily reached from Route 145. Others invite a bit of map reading, sturdy hiking shoes or horses to reach the desired locations. Both avid backpackers and occasional hikers can find many trails to explore.
A natural bridge 30 feet high and more than 150 feet long, a rock formation called Devil’s Backbone, natural caves and springs are among the sites worth visiting at Bell Smith. Two creeks, Bay and Hunting Branch, have carved a winding canyon with giant boulders, shelter bluffs and the natural bridge. Native Americans are believed to have used these natural shelters for protection from severe weather.
Visitors can also take a short side trip to Burden Falls, where water tumbles over rocky falls during the wet season. The falls area is the head of a meandering wilderness stream strewn with cobblestones that adventuresome hikers enjoy negotiating.
The many wilderness areas include Lusk Creek Canyon, near Eddyville, where a 100 foot gorge has been cut out by Lusk Creek. Jackson Hollow, near Simpson, also offers a series of shelter bluffs, caves, waterfalls, and sheer cliffs.