When most Hoosiers consider traveling to St. Louis, their thoughts turn to the Arch, the zoo and Cardinals baseball.

But just across the river from St. Louis in southern Illinois are two attractions with deep historical significance, one harkening to the Woodland Indians and another relating the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Long before Europeans migrated to the shores of North America, the Woodland Indians developed a thriving civilization that had a population estimated at 20,000 people in 700 AD.

It was a regional center that included farmlands, villages and towns in a highly structured community with complex political and social ranks.

Cahokia Mounds State Park near St. Louis at one time had 120 mounds built by the Woodland Indians.

The “Monks Mound” is at the center of the state park and rises to a height of 100 feet. An estimated 22 million cubic feet of earth was moved to create the base, which covers 14 acres.

At one time, the chief of the tribe resided atop the mound. But now visitors can climb a stairway to get a panoramic view of the site.

The Midwest was home to many Indian cultures that constructed mounds. Today, these can be found in Mounds State Park in Anderson, Angel Mound near Vincennes, Effigy Mounds in Minnesota and the Snake Mounds in southern Ohio.

Trails at the Illinois state park provide visitors with the opportunity to view many of the mounds. Of the 80 initially discovered, 72 remain preserved from development.

By the year 1350, the site had been abandoned by the Woodland Indians. The reason remains a mystery to this day.

Walking the trails, you might happen upon an abundance of wildlife. Deer in the park show only a passing interest in hikers.

Close by is Woodhenge, which includes a circular series of holes in the ground for wooden posts to create a solar calendar that dates back to 1000 AD. People gather at Woodhenge to view the equinox each year.

The Lewis & Clark State Historic site is nearby, marking the spot where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent the winter of 1803 on the journey to the Pacific Ocean.

This historic site includes a replica of Camp River Dubois, recreated using the original drawing by Clark. The men spent five months in this small wooden enclave waiting for winter to pass so that they could continue their journey.

The park also features a replica of a settler’s cabin similar to those used by families from 1800 to 1815.

The interpretative center displays a 55-foot keelboat based on the model used by the Lewis & Clark expedition and offers details about the journey, the supplies purchased and recruits enlisted in Illinois.

Standing along the Missouri River, it’s easy to imagine what was going through the minds of the men making that journey into the unknown West.

It’s possible to visit both southern Illinois locations in a one-day trip, but several days are required to see all the area has to offer.

Follow Ken de la Bastide

on Twitter @KendelaBastide,

or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.