What Happened to the Prairie?

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

He isn't THAT big.

He isn't THAT big.

Up in my neck of the woods, Chicago, Illinois looks like “The Prairie State” – flat and grassy. But Little Egypt (as Southern Illinois is sometimes called)? Well it is still plenty grassy but flat it is not. This land between the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers has rolling hills. And frankly, we were surprised to see them.

Other surprises included Superman in Metropolis which we stopped at for fun on our return into Illinois. Superman was surprisingly small and off the beaten track. Still, worth the trip to say that we saw him.

Kincaid Mounds

Kincaid Mounds

More interesting in the are were the Mississippian mounds in the region. We didn’t make it all the way over to Cahokia to see the biggest of them as it was closer to St. Louis. We did look at the mounds closer to Carbondale. In particular, we visited the Kincaid Mounds which is a 1000 year old site that is currently protected by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and we were lucky enough to encounter a docent while visiting the site. If you have an opportunity to visit any of the mounds in Southern Illinois, please do so. They are remarkable and I wish my pictures did them justice.

Yes, that is the Kincaid House on the mound in the picture.

Yes, that is the Kincaid House on the mound in the picture.

We didn’t make it to Cairo (pronounced Ka-Roh, if you don’t want to be spotted as a tourist) and Fort Defiance State Park, home of a Civil War Era fort commanded by Ulysses S. Grant and the confluence (convergence) of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Another time, perhaps?

The area is also home to the State of Illinois’ only AVA, The Shawnee Hills. The area encompasses the majority of the area that is the Shawnee Hills National Forest and is south of the Saline River and between the Mississippi and Ohio. There are are 17 wineries in the AVA that are divided among two wine trails. The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail covers the territory to the west of I-57 (with the exception of Limestone Creek Winery in Jonesboro) and the Southern Illinois Wine Trail covers the area east of the hightway. Internal squabbling among the wineries led to the split several years ago.

Still. An AVA in my very own state? This I must check out for myself!

Shawnee Hills

Shawnee Hills

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