Garden of the gods 3Located in the Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area is 3,318 acres of unique geological formations and sprawling forests. This destination is the most visited site in the Shawnee National Forest, with sights like Camel Rock, Anvil Rock and Devil's Smoke Stack that make for a hiker’s and photographer’s wonderland.

Unlike most of Illinois, the expanse on which the Garden of the Gods is located was never covered in glacier, allowing wind and rain to weather the sandstone over hundreds of millions of years to create the unique features seen there today.

The wilderness area’s most popular trail, Observation Trail, is a short quarter-mile hike that allows visitors to see a lot of what the park has to offer, including woodlands and the famous Camel Rock. The trail also features signs that highlight the various historical and geologic features of these unique sandstone bluffs.

For a more extended hike, visitors can traverse the 5.5 miles of interconnected trails. The area also features equestrian trails for an enjoyable horseback riding experience.

Southern Illinois has a lot to offer, but visitors to the area should definitely make time to visit this exceptional area in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest.

Check out more to do at Garden of the Gods here.

Hannukah 2Happy Hanukkah! This evening marks the beginning of the Jewish Festival of Lights. The holiday is celebrated with nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and other cultural traditions.

Hanukkah is a variation of the Hebrew word Chanukah, pronounced with a guttural “kh” sound, which means dedication. The holiday is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple.

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university 2540633 960 720In 2020, enrollment in Illinois’ public universities have seen an increase of 417 new students. That is a 0.2% increase from 2019, while most states saw decreases. The chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, John Atkinson, complimented the resilience of Illinois’s institutions of higher education and their leadership.

It was predicted that University enrollment would drop a whopping 25% nationwide in the summer and fall. Illinois beat those odds and managed to increase its university enrollment.

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Emiquon Wildlife RefugeRight outside Lewistown in central Illinois lies Emiquon, one of the Midwest’s largest floodplain restoration projects. At nearly 6,000 acres, the wildlife refuge contains a diverse array of native plant and animal species in a complex system of wetlands and lakes. Additionally, Emiquon’s proximity to Dickson Mounds and its own 149 documented archaeological sites make it one of the richest Native American cultural sites in the country.

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Truck transporting the U.S. Capitol Christmas TreeThe Christmas tree that will sit on display this holiday season on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building will be traveling through Southern Illinois starting around 1:15 p.m. on Nov. 16.

The tree will be met by Illinois State Police at the Illinois-Missouri state line, where it will be escorted on Highway 64 East to Interstate 57 South before continuing onto Interstate 24 East. From there, it will be handed off to a different escort for the next leg of its journey.

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