Located on the banks of the Wabash River in southeastern Illinois, Beall Woods State Park attracts visitors from around the world who are interested in experiencing one of the few remaining tracts of virgin timber east of the Mississippi River. At Beall Woods, visitors can see trees 120 feet tall and more than 3 feet in diameter. Besides hiking, Beall Woods also offers visitors a quiet, relaxing setting for camping, picnicking and fishing.
Beall Woods (pronounced Bell) had a working farm owned by the Beall family since the mid-1800s with almost half of the 635 acres of forest that had never been cleared. When Laura Beall, the last living heir, died without a will, the property went up for auction and was sold to a man who intended to cut the timber. Many individuals and organizations came together to prevent this from happening, a trial ensued and the land was purchased by the state of Illinois in 1965 by invoking the law of eminent domain against the unwilling seller. In 1966, 329 acres of old-growth forest in Beall Woods State Park was dedicated as the 14th Illinois nature preserve by the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission. With this action, a piece of Illinois’ natural heritage was preserved so that future generations have the opportunity to see an example of the magnificent forest that once grew along the Wabash River.
The new visitor center opened in April 2001 with educational displays focusing on the history of the area as well as Illinois’ natural heritage. The park interpreter offers a variety of nature programs at the center from April through October. Weekday programs also are available for school groups. Picnic shelters and playground areas are located around the recreation portion of the lake. Shaded picnicking also is available near the visitor center.
In the late 1970s, a 15-acre lake was developed to provide park visitors additional recreational opportunities and a scenic backdrop. Anglers can fish for largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish. The lake also is stocked in the spring and fall for trout season.
Five established trails offer hikerd excellent views of Beall Woods’ old-growth forest. From the easy 1-mile Tuliptree Trail, which features a self-guided trail brochure, to the 1.25-mile moderately easy White Oak Trail, the nature enthusiast can get a sense of what the settlers saw when they arrived at the banks of the Wabash River.