Waterfalls, Wildflowers, and Wineries Weekend
After a 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Camp Ondessonk was glad to offer the popular Waterfalls, Wildflowers, and Wineries Weekend on April 1-3, 2022, led by Chris Benda, staff naturalist. Known as “Illinois Botanizer,” Chris has extensive knowledge of the flora of southern Illinois and has been leading adult tours at Camp Ondessonk for over ten years.
The tour began with a waterfall called Crystal Falls adjacent to Camp Ondessonk property. Owned by Lucia Hodges, this waterfall is just a short walk from St. Noel. Chris pointed out a healthy population of the rare French’s Shooting Star at this hidden waterfall. Wine and snacks followed back at the lodge.
On Saturday, the tour continued to three lesser-known waterfalls east of Pakentuck Road on the Shawnee National Forest. The 3-mile loop crossed several creeks to Indian Falls, Little Pakentuck, and Crevice Falls. There were two couples on the tour that missed out on seeing these three waterfalls because of heavy rain on the tour several years ago, and they were delighted to get to see them this time. The other group consisted of five women who embarked on the tour at the request of their friend, who was recently married. Spirits were high as we walked through the woods, seeing neat wildflowers like spring beauty, dutchman’s breeches, and toothwort.
The next stop was Blue Sky Winery in Makanda. This popular winery was busy, but we had no problem getting bottles of wine and accouterments. It wouldn’t be much of a winery tour if we only visited one winery, so we continued onto Feather Hills, which had a different vibe, much more chill and cozy. Then it was back to the lodge for dinner.
The tour ended on Sunday morning with a brief stop at one of the taller waterfalls in the region called Burden Falls, just down Ozark Road. The participants headed home with all smiles after a fun weekend with great weather and wonderful people. It is a pleasure to offer this tour, and we expect it to continue annually.