There are only 15 areas in the United States that have been designated by the RAMSAR Convention as Wetlands of International Importance. In 1996 the Cache River - Cypress Creek Wetlands was so designated. These wetlands acquire a new status at the national level and are recognized by the international community as being of significant value not only for the country, or the countries, in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole.

Cache River - Cypress Creek Wetlands. 01/11/94; Illinois; 24,281 ha; 3713N 08908W. National Wildlife Refuge, National Natural Landmark, State Wildlife Management Area, State Natural Area. The confluence of four physiographic provinces with hi. h biological diversity, high quality occurrences of rare communities and species, bottomland hardwoods, migratory water birds and bird habitat, ancient trees, and mammalian predators -- a site with nationally and internationally significant and unique ecological values. Wetland types include swamps, shrub swamps, open water, wet floodplain forests or bottomland hardwood forests, and wet farmland. Located on the Mississippi flyway, the area is important to migrating, staging and wintering waterfowl, especially ducks and geese. Since 1900, the basin has undergone substantial hydrological modifications. Restoration of the hydrologic system is a major management objective. Ramsar site no. 711.

~ Annotated RAMSAR List

The Cache River State Natural Area covers 11,768 acres and has public access at over 20 designated locations. (See IDNR map). These access points are usually simple, narrow, gravel drives and parking areas.  See the accompanying Illinois Department of Natural Resources map for locations.

The area has three Nature Preserves:

  •  Heron Pond/Wildcat Bluff
  •  Little Black Slough
  •  Section 8 Woods

These three preserves contain some outstanding specimens of ancient woodlands. The State Champion Cherry Bark Oak is easily accessible in the Heron Pond area, The State Champion Bald Cypress is accessible by trail or canoe. The State Champion Water Tupelo is but 250 feet from from the trailhead. You are encouraged to read the excellent assessment of the Big Trees of the Southern Illinois Cache River Bottoms  (by Donald Ugent, Donald R. Tindall and Norman J. Doorenbos, Department of Botany and College of Science, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois).

Illinois Big Tree Champions lists all the largest tree species in Illinois.

The Cache River State Natural Area also a diverse mix of many other tree species including the following:

Blackjack Oak ~Fagaceae Quercus marilandica
Overcup Oak ~Fagaceae Quercus lyrata
Pin Oak ~Fagaceae Quercus palustris
Sweetgum ~Hamamelidaceae Liquidambar styraciflua
Post Oak ~Quercus stellata Wangenh
Tupelo ~Nyssaceae sylvatica
Red Oak ~Quercus rubra L.
White Oak ~Quercus alba
Shagbark Hickory ~Carya ovata
Bald Cypress ~Taxodium distichum


Official Access Points

  1. Belknap Access
  2. Barkhausen Wetlands Center
  3. Big Cypress Access
  4. Cave Creek Access
  5. East Bluff Access
  6. East Karnak Access
  7. Flatwoods Access
  8. Forman Access
  9. Glass Hill Access
  10. Heron Pond Access
  11. Lower Cache River Access
  12. North Cypress Access
  13. North Main Access
  14. Northwest Belknap Access
  15. Marshall Ridge Access
  16. Perks Road Access
  17. Route 45 North Access
  18. South Cypress Access
  19. West Karnak Access
  20. West Route 37 Access
  21. Wildcat Bluff Access

Last edited: 08/03/05

 This page last updated: 09/08/10 . Website maintained by Bob Pauls.
Copyright Shawnee Group, Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club