Garden of the Gods is one of the most photographed locations in the midwest, featuring magnificent rock formations overlooking hills and valleys in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness area. It is located in the eastern portion of the Shawnee National Forest, a 277,000 acre treasure owned by the U.S. Government. The forest located in southern Illinois sits between the Ohio River and Mississippi Rivers.
The Shawnee Hills is a very old mountain range that is about 320 million years old. This area was originally covered by a giant inland sea. An uplift caused displacements in the earth that measured into the thousands of feet. Windblown sand, rail and freezing and thawing are major natural forces which have worn down the Shawnee Hills. The single most significant erosive factor was glaciation. The glaciers stopped north of the range; however the melting of a giant glacier thousands of feet deep released tremendous volumes of water that eroded the soft limestone and sandstone rocks creating the present day valleys.
You will find many interesting rock formations in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness area. Natural erosion carved these images over the course of 100,000,000 years.The original sandstone was deposited 300-310,000,000 years ago. These unusual rock formations include a camel, a monkey face, a turtle and whatever you see. The most popular rock formation is in the shape of a camel. It worth seeing and if you look closely there is a monkey face watching the camel. Also in this area is the Devil’s smokestack, Anvil Rock, the “H” Rock and many other formations.
Camel Rock is featured on the 2016 Illinois State Quarter. On February 4th, 2016 the U.S. Mint and the Shawnee National Forest launched the 31st America the Beautiful coin - the Illinois quarter featuring Camel Rock formation from the Garden of the Gods recreation area. This site was selected because it represents a place of utmost natural significance.
Garden of the Gods is accessible by a paved observation trail. Rustic restroom facilities are available. The River to River Trail passes in front of Camel Rock.