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The Friends of the Cache River Wetlands have provided support for a number of efforts to protect, restore and enhance the natural wonders of the Cache, including restoration of forest and wetland habitat, river bank stabilization, construction of visitor facilities and improvement of nesting habitat for migratory birds.

As part of our education and outreach mission, the Friends sponsor a signature event, Nature Fest, which annually attracts 1,200 to 1,500 attendees and features free guided hikes and canoe tours, exhibits and films, educational presentations, live wildlife exhibits, and nature games and activities for the whole family. We work to promote the Cache, not only as a resource to be protected and cherished, but as a place where people can enjoy hiking, birding, kayaking and canoeing, hunting, fishing, photography and learning more about the natural environment.

Our electronic newsletter, published six times a year, features events, educational activities and the latest news about research and restoration projects. We also serve as a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities at the Cache River Wetlands Center, at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, and on various Friends’ committees. The Cache needs many helping hands – please consider getting involved today, as a volunteer, an advocate and a member of the Friends!

Current Projects


Help give local kids the chance to canoe the Cache River, visit thousand-year-old cypress trees, have close encounters with great blue herons and bird-voiced tree frogs, learn about southern Illinois’ rich natural and human history at the Cache River Wetlands Center, and much more!

KIDS TO THE CACHE, sponsored by Friends of the Cache River Watershed, provides $300 grants each year to assist public schools in southern Illinois that are bringing student groups on field trips to the Cache River State Natural Area and Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Funds may be used to help cover costs of the field trip to the Cache, or for related classroom expenses.

Grants will be awarded in the fall and the spring. The annual submission deadline for fall field trips is September 30 and for spring field trips is January 30. A teacher or school may apply for both fall and spring, but must submit two separate applications. If you have questions please contact


When French Voyageurs first came upon the umber waters of the Cache more than 200 years ago, they named the river with the French word for “hidden” – and, indeed, the Cache River is still a hidden treasure today. One could easily spend a lifetime exploring and discovering the natural wonders of these woods and wetlands. But, if you only have a weekend, or even a few hours, the CACHE RIVER AUTO TOUR is designed to showcase the area’s highlights and whet your appetite for a return visit!

A detailed map features 12 stops that represent some of the best the Cache has to offer. Site descriptions written by nature authors Michael Jeffords and Susan Post, based on their many years of personal exploration, provide a wealth of information about the unique plants, animals, insects, landscape features and seasonal sights and sounds to be experienced at each stop. Suggested itineraries are provided, depending on how much time you have to spend and the level of activity desired.

Free copies of the CACHE RIVER AUTO TOUR map and brochure are now available at the Cache River Wetlands Center and the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge Office.

UPDATE: In August 2017, the Friends published a NEW edition of the Autotour map and brochure that features 16 sites depicting the rich human history of the Cache, including the Trail of Tears, historic railroad depots, a pioneer cabin built in the 1850s, a Revolutionary War campsite, graves of participants in the infamous Hell’s Neck Feud and more. It can be downloaded via the link below.


Assisted by a grant from The Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Cache River Watershed developed the Pollinator Interpretive Trail at the Barkhausen Cache River Wetlands Center, 8885 IL-37, Cypress, IL 62923. In the spring and summer of 2016, the concrete path behind the Wetlands Center was transformed by the addition of 12 demonstration/research garden plots featuring plants beneficial to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Each of the eight-by-four-foot, semi-circular gardens illustrates a single concept that can be duplicated by educators or in home gardens. Some aim to attract a specific type of pollinator, including hummingbirds, mason bees, leaf cutter bees, sphinx moths and monarch butterflies. Others are organized around themes such as low-maintenance plants or later blooming flowers that provide sustenance for pollinators migrating south in the fall.

Over the summer of 2017, permanent interpretive signage was added to the gardens, some of the less successful plots were reworked and others were enhanced. The project was devised by entomologist Michael Jeffords with the gardens being designed, planted, and maintained by volunteers. Participating organizations include the Metropolis Garden Club, Southern Illinois Master Naturalists, Massac Nature Study Society, Perryville Master Gardeners, Friends of the Cache, DAR, and Southernwood Gardens of Alto Pass.

More volunteers are always welcome. If interested, contact Anne Parmley at or talk with Site Interpreter, Molie Oliver, at the Wetlands Center.


Heron Pond State Natural Area, which features one of the country’s finest bald cypress swamps, is a “destination site” for anyone visiting the Cache River Wetlands. In the spring of 2016, Friends of the Cache were proud to present 12 new interpretative signs for the Heron Pond Trail. The signs were created and produced by the Friends in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, with content and photographs provided by Michael Jeffords and Susan Post and graphic design by John Havlik. Special thanks go to the Southern Illinois Audubon Society, which provided funding for the project.


Friends of the Cache worked with staff at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and the Cache River Wetlands Center to pull together information on the many free educational tools and programs offered by both facilities. The new Education Brochure, completed in the spring of 2017, offers "one stop shopping" for local teachers and homeschoolers to take advantage of education trunks and lesson plans, guided canoe and hiking trips, and a multitude of other programs that provide students with the opportunity to experience the Cache River Wetlands as a true living laboratory.

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