By Ryan Kinports
Southern Illinois may at first seem like nothing but corn fields with little to do. When I arrived here it was apparent to me that there was a great deal of natural beauty around our campus. I drove in on highway 3 which runs parallel to the Mississippi for a time. The scenery in that area is especially beautiful at sunset. This campus covers roughly 10,000 acres in this area that includes stables, a lakefront camping area with a highline ropes course, farms, a motorcycle training course, and various other interests. In proximity to campus there is Giant City, and Crab Orchard Lake. SIU also owns Touch of Nature, which is a 3,000 acre site available to students for outdoor activities. I don’t come in contact with many people who take advantage of these resources. It seems especially prevalent in our school due to the work load. I would encourage you to get out and see some of these sites while you are a student as once you graduate and enter the work force time constraints will limit you further.
This area includes ~100 camp sites. There are 17 miles of hiking trails that lead through large rock outcroppings and undisturbed woods. There are two areas where you may rock climb. There are 12 miles of horse trails with 25 equipped camp sites if you have a horse, or you may go on guided tours. Hunting for select species during authorized times is allowed. There are cabins for rent, the water tower which provides a view for miles around, and Giant City Lodge which contains a restaurant notable for its fried chicken.
Touch of Nature:
This property requires reservations for use. There is rock climbing sites, hiking trails, high ropes, canoeing, and beach access available for students. This is probably one of the more underutilized resources SIU operates.
Motorcycle Rider Program
If you’ve ever wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle in a safe environment, or you want to improve your mastery, in a safe controlled environment this is the place for you.
Crab Orchard Lake
This is a ~6,900 acre fishing and boating area on the way to Marion that is stocked with largemouth bass. It does not have the horsepower restrictions that other nearby bodies of water have. On most days the water is calm.
Free Again Wildlife Rehabilitation
This is a privately owned wildlife center that focusses on brining injured or abandoned animals back to health so they may be released. It is run solely on volunteers and always needs help. I was there once a week during the summer and found it rewarding. If you’ve ever wanted to work with local species such as Hawks, foxes, or bobcats this is the place for you.