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Cache River Magic

When I first visited the Cache River when I was a 13 -year-old boy, I instinctively knew this place had magic. Not the kind of magic that turns frogs into princes, but the kind that fosters the soul and the imagination of children that these wild places still give. The Cache is home to one of the northern most Bald Cypress wetlands in the country and it has a very specialized ecosystem.

Nearly three decades later and countless hours of observation and canoeing on this river, I still continue to wander in this place as I did as a child. As I set out in my handmade Louisiana styled Pirogue (Bald Cypress board canoe), reminiscent of the Cypress swamps of French/Indian influenced Louisiana, I still find magic in this ancient river. I can still discover its natural mystery as I cut through the thick coat of duckweed and hear the countless calls of songbirds around me. It wasn’t long before I encountered a Great Blue Heron, stalking its prey in the murky shallows. With its sword-like piecing head, it looks in my direction, lands and belts out a call that sounds something like it’s from Jurassic Park. Listening to this Alarm call I ask myself what other swamp creatures have now been alerted to my presence. This is referred to as Mowgli’s Jungle Law or in this case, swampland law. It is the natural law for the traveler aware or unaware of their surroundings that every creature knows you’re here as a traveler which may include anything from humans to coyotes. According to this law, concentric rings are sent like ripples in a pond and every creature is alerted to your presence and your potential dangers. Essentially the swamp is alive and knows your movements and knows that you are here and it is watching.

After paddling 4 miles, I reach my river stilt house that sits on the water’s edge. I am just in time to meet with a group for an afternoon paddle and to share some Stone Age swamp craft. They are from Chicago and they have interest in knowing this swamp as ancient man knew it. By the time the afternoon has passed, I will have showed them basic friction fire craft, wild foods of the river area, how to procure water, how to weave a cattail mat for bedding, and how to survive if one is lost in these wilds. Soon after these lessons we set out for an afternoon paddle and immerse them to the movement of the river and slow rhythm that persists here.

All this and more are shared here at the home of Cache Bayou Outfitters Inc. It is my hope you will come to the river to reconnect –– both with nature and your ancient self. We provide memorable and exciting group outings for single parties, scouting organizations, church, & camp; civic groups, social clubs, company outings and others wanting a beautiful flat water experience through Illinois’s hidden Bayou known as the Lower Cache River, near Ullin, Illinois.

The Lower Cache Basin is home to the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and the Cache River State Natural Area. Thousands of migrating waterfowl have made this bioregion their winter home, making this area a unique ecological treasure. This incredibly distinct area results in 4  physiographic areas including Ozark Plateau, Interior Low plateau, Coastal Plain, and Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The U.N. has it listed as a RAMSAR site “Wetland of International Importance” because of its rich diversity of plant and animal species. The Cache River Wetlands contains 60,000 acres of beautiful forests and wetlands that are inhabited by otters, bobcats, whitetail deer, bald eagles, herons, egrets, and even the occasional cormorants  are sighted periodically along the Cache during the summer months.