I had the opportunity to travel through Southern Illinois on my way back from Iowa in June. I stopped for the night at The Garden of the Gods. [Gallery]
It was late afternoon and I had just enough time to walk and photograph the major trail while the sun was setting. I took several nice photos including this HDR Panorama. [Click to Enlarge]
As the day ended I heard pleasant bird song, followed it, and discovered the source was this beautiful Indigo Bunting.
I slept comfortably in my hammock and the next morning the same bird (?) was singing in a nearby tree! (I saw this species a half dozen times this trip—more than my entire life prior!) I had a chance to observe this bird long enough to notice he was very systematic with his song. He would belt out a few bars, then turn 90° and sing some more, repeat, repeat, new perch, repeat, repeat…
The next morning I got up early and crossed the Ohio River on a little car ferry.
I was itching to go kayaking somewhere new, so I headed over to the Santa Fe River. There was a little park and boat launch near the highway 47 bridge. While getting ready to go I spotted what looked like green leaves stuck on the sides of two trees. They turned out to be Luna Moths, which I think were newly emerged. Beautiful! [Gallery]
I proceeded to peddle upstream against the current, which was pretty brisk at times. The shoreline got progressively more rocky with exposed limestone until I reached an actual rapids. It was all I could do to move against it. Once I passed it I stopped for a rest and then started my lazy float back downstream.
I stopped frequently to take pictures and explore a bit. The south side is conservation land and the north side is undeveloped. There were LOTS of cypress knees!
There is no one big obvious spring as far as I could tell, but several under and around the river. The possible exception was a small stream that formed a long skinny island not far from the bridge. The water there was much clearer (and warmer). I could not paddle beyond fallen trees on both ends so I walked a trail along side for a hundred yards or so. It was a beautiful place!
In addition to the yellow asters shown above there were Spider Lilies starting to bloom and lots of Rain Lilies on the forest floor. This last was new to me. I’m used to seeing them along the roadside after it rains.
Here’s part of the low-res map I used (upstream is down). The distance from the put-in to the “kink” near the bottom is about two miles. That’s where the rapids are (I think).