Harrisburg, the "Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest," is strategically located to provide you access to many wonders and recreational activities. Explore the Shawnee and you will enjoy the largest, most diverse national treasure in Illinois. You can go bird watching, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, camping, canoeing, bicycling, picnicking, swimming, berry or mushroom picking, as well as having some beautiful photographic opportunities.
In addition, Harrisburg offers and excellent school system, a state-of-the-art health care facility, a quality park district, many churches of various denominations, wonderful shopping, a variety of recreational opportunities including golf, bowling, and four movie theaters, to name a few. More importantly, Harrisburg offers a quality of life that provides a safe, clean environment and friendly hard working people.
We are proud of our community and all that it provides and we are happy to have you consider Harrisburg for your vacation or relocation.
Michael S. Stewart
Harrisburg claims the title: "Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest," a 256,000-acre shrine to history, nature, and outdoor family fun. And rightly so! The city is the dominant economic force in Saline County and only about five miles from the forest's northern edge.
The National Forest is a vast source of recreation for Harrisburg area families, offering everything from family camping, boating, fishing, swimming, and scenic highways, to hiking, biking, and horseback riding along trails that wind through the forest's vast wilderness areas. Thousands of visitors come to Harrisburg annually for that same outdoor fun.
Business and industry are welcome in the Harrisburg area where two industrial parks with complete infrastructures are established. A nearby community college works closely with local companies to provide tailored employee training programs. The result is a skilled and motivated workforce. The college's new and impressive Visual and Performing Arts Center enhances Harrisburg's cultural scene.
Harrisburg housing spans the full spectrum from elegant old mansion and contemporary executive style homes to a wide range of affordable single family homes and complexes of rental apartments.
The schools of Harrisburg practice excellence through habit and conviction and do so in every aspect of the education process from buildings and equipment to educators and support staff. A state-of-the-art hospital assures quick access to quality health care when needed.
Harrisburg is the shopping center for Saline County and the surrounding area, with a variety of shopping experiences offered by friendly downtown retailers, three large shopping centers, and dozens of other stores and services. Several small communities nearby are noted for their numerous craft and antique shops.
The Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest is a great place to visit. Harrisburg is an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family.
The area of Harrisburg has a long history, despite the fact that Saline was 99th out of 102 counties created in Illinois. Once, the area was claimed by Spain. Next, thanks to the treks of Joliet and Marquette, it was claimed by France. After the French and Indian War, England took it over. The 13 Colonies grabbed it in 1778 and it became part of Virginia. After that, it was part of the Northwest Territory, then the Indiana Territory, and finally the Illinois Territory. In 1847, a large piece of Randolph County was carved away to become Saline County.
Harrisburg was platted as a village on 20 acres in 1853. Six years later, the village became the seat of Saline County government, and, in 1861, it became a town and was approaching a population count of 500. In 1889, with a population of 1,500, Harrisburg became a city, with an aldermanic form of government. It adopted the commission form in 1915.
In 1854, the first slope coal mine began operations southeast of the community. At first, the coal was carried by wagon to area homes and businesses and used for heating. After the Civil War, coal production became an important industry in the county. The first shaft mine was sunk in 1873 or 1874. This was followed by the creation of several more shaft mines and by an influx of settlers drawn to the area to work the mines. By 1906, the county was producing more than 500,000 tons of coal annually, with more than 1,000 miners at work.
Early the 1870s, Harrisburg residents raised $100,000 to pay for construction of a railroad through the city. In 1872, the Cairo & Vincennes Railroad, later the New York Central, was completed and provided the means needed to haul coal to distant markets.
Ohio River Valley flooding long plagued the fledgling community. Lying only 366 feet above sea level, the city was flooded in 1883-1884 and again in 1913. Its most severe flood came in 1937 when much of the city was underwater. After that, a huge dike was erected to rim and protect the city.
Today, Harrisburg is a modern, progressive city of some 9,600 people. As coal production slowed, other industries developed, broadening the economic base and providing a widened range of available jobs. In 1997, as Saline County observed its sesquicentennial, Harrisburg looks to the future with faith and confidence.
Harrisburg is more than the Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest. It is the economic hub of Saline County and a gateway to progress for business.
The city has quick access to I-57 at Marion, only 23 miles to the west, via State Route 13, soon to be a fully completed four-lane divided highway. U.S. Highway 45 cuts diagonally through the heart of Harrisburg connecting it with neighboring communities and Interstates 64 on the north and 24 on the south. State Routes 34 and 145 also intersect within Harrisburg, joining the community with surrounding cities and towns.
The city's business and industry are served by three locale trucking companies, plus the major common carriers who travel the state's Interstate Highways. Ohio River barge transportation is available at Shawneetown, 23 miles to the east of Harrisburg.
Air travelers have ready access to commercial service at Williamson County Regional Airport, at Marion. Another major airport with commercial passenger service is located to the south in Paducah, Kentucky, about 60 miles away. Harrisburg-Raleigh Airport, located a few minutes north of Harrisburg, is a base for both private and corporate aircraft. Its two runways measure 4,000 and 2,800 feet in length. The airport provides maintenance services, rentals, and charter service. Area residents can also learn to fly at Harrisburg-Raleigh Airport.
Rides Mass Transit District provides bus transportation at nominal cost in Harrisburg and Saline County and five neighboring counties. It operates standard vehicles on established routes and provides door-to-door service with lift and ramp equipped vehicles. Routes include major medical facilities and shopping centers.
The easy roll of the Harrisburg area landscape provides builders with the perfect canvas on which to ply their art. The result is areas of spectacular new homes with equally spectacular vistas. However, the city has a home to match every budget and every lifestyle. Homes range from grand old turn of the century mansions to cozy apartments, from the architectural styles of the early 20th century to contemporary duplexes and even mobile homes.
As expected, the area surrounding downtown Harrisburg is spotted with elegant old homes. On Poplar, Church, and Granger Streets there are Victorian, Greek Revival, Federal, and Tudor designs, all carefully preserved and maintained. In some areas, these streets are still paved with hand-laid brick. Around these are the Cape Cods, American Foursquares, and bungalows from the 1920s and 1930s. Modern ranch, raised ranch, and split-level designs extend from these to near the edges of the community.
On the city's south side and at various other points are complexes of rental apartments, some designed for low income families.
At the far southwestern corner of the city is Southwest Acres, an area of splendid and sparkling new executive style homes, of sprawling ranches and huge two-stories, an area where three-car garages are the norm. In Country Club Acres, on the far east side around Shawnee Hills Country Club golf course, elegant large executive and custom-built mid-size homes enjoy the relaxed view of golf course greens and fairways. This is also true of the homes lining Fairway Drive at the course's western edge.
The homes of people who keep horses or love the peace and privacy of acreage are found in the countryside surrounding the community. Whatever the lifestyle, there's a home in or near Harrisburg to match it.
More than 270,000 acres of Shawnee National Forest lie to the south of Harrisburg, drawing thousands of visitors annually to the Saline County area and the gateway community. The Shawnee National Forest offers much to see and do. The national forest has 1,250 miles of roadways, some 150 miles of streams and frequent waterfalls, numerous ponds and lakes as large as 2,700 acres (some with swimming beaches), 13 campgrounds, many picnicking sites, and seven wilderness areas where trails are designed for hiking and horseback riding.
Harrisburg is the base for many visitors to the area. They find comfortable accommodations in the city's four hotels/motels with a combined total of 176 rooms. A bed and breakfast established in a complex of three historic old homes with 14 rooms. There are five other bed and breakfasts in the area. Dozens of restaurants offer everything from ethnic cuisine to fast food. One in downtown Harrisburg plays on memories of classic movies and their stars.
Garden of the Gods is only 10 miles from Harrisburg, at the southeast corner of Saline County. Here visitors can see unusual rock formations dating back 300 million years, among them Camel Rock, Anvil Rock, and Devil's Smokestack. A short observation trail takes visitors to the top of the cliffs where they look out at the Shawnee Hills and the Garden of the Gods Wilderness. The Wilderness is off limits to motor traffic, accessed only by backpackers and equestrians. The observation trail winds past a shaded picnic area with tables, grills, and nearby restrooms. A small campground is also nearby.
The Shawnee Hills features a 70-mile scenic byway. The byway passes the Garden of the Gods recreation and wilderness areas, Williams Hill (second highest point in Illinois), Gibbons Creek Barrens (a 1.5-mile interpretive trail), and many other great sightseeing spots. The Shawnee Hills is a beginning point for the River-to-River Trail, a hiking and horseback riding trail between Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Grand Tower on the Mississippi River.
The Saline County Area Historical Museum, in Harrisburg, is also an appealing place for visitors. The three-acre site includes the three-story high Old Pauper Home, last remaining vestige of a 170-acre poor farm purchased by the county in 1863. Leased by the Saline County Historical Society, the museum houses room-sized exhibits depicting the lifestyles of bygone years. Around the central museum is a variety of historic buildings acquired, moved to the site, and restored. Among these historic structures are several cabins built by the earliest settlers in the Shawnee Hills who came to the area in 1799. Also preserved is a fully-equipped one-room school house and a small church from 1870 that was once a Quaker meeting house.
Glen O. Jones Lake, in the Saline County Conservation Area, has been described as one of the region's most beautiful lakes. The Conservation Area encompasses 1,248 acres of bottom and hill land bordering the Shawnee National Forest. It is about 15 miles southeast of Harrisburg. Early in the area's history, the site's springs and wells provided brine for a salt works. Today, the Conservation Area is a recreation site, with hiking trails, horseback riding trails, boat rentals, and concessions.
Recognized as the "Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest," Harrisburg resides amid the beauties and wonders of nature. As a result, the people of Harrisburg and its vicinity make maximum use of the splendid recreation facilities offered by Shawnee National Forest and those of three community parks.
The three city parks are owned and maintained by the Harrisburg Township Park District. Memorial Park is the district's principal park, with three ball fields, 10 picnic shelters, two lighted double tennis courts, a well-equipped playground for youngsters, and a swim complex with pool and impressive water slide. Gaskin City Park is the site of two baseball fields (one lighted) and a new shelter and playground. Dorris Height Park, at the northern edge of the city, is the site of Harrisburg's premier baseball facility.
The Park District encourages active participation in recreation by conducting and series of programs and activities for children and adolescents. The seasonal program offers everything from boys weights to children's self defense, from kids arts and crafts to a girls volleyball clinic, and from a girls softball camp to youth tennis. The district also organizes trips to special events and places of interest.
Recreation activities available in the Shawnee National Forest are myriad. Harrisburg families can go camping, swimming, horseback riding along beautiful nature trails, hiking and biking along the same trails, go hunting or fishing, and generally enjoy the many wonders of nature to be found in the Shawnee National Forest.
Augmenting these public areas and facilities are privately operated recreation sites. There are bowling centers, health and fitness clubs, and a skating rink in the area. Avid golfers satisfy their desire for challenge at four area golf courses, all within easy reach, including 18-hole Shawnee Hills County Club in Harrisburg.
Nearby Lake Glendale Recreation Area is one of the recreation highlights of Shawnee National Forest. Located in the heart of the forest, it offers an 80-acre clear water lake for swimming and fishing, and a shoreline for hiking, and camping. The campground has 60 sites, 30 with electrical hookups. Another popular recreation spot is Glen O. Jones State Lake, in the Saline County Conservation Area, to the east of Harrisburg. The 105-acre lake is surrounded by 1,248 acres of scenic land for camping, picnicking, and hiking. In winter, the area is popular for ice fishing, ice skating, and sledding on the hills.
Throughout the National Forest are trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, backpacking, berry picking, and mushroom gathering. The Garden of the Gods Wilderness covers 3,293 acres and is off limits to motorized travel. Backpackers trek the Wilderness' trails to see a natural environment that hasn't changed in thousands of years.
All of Harrisburg goes out into the National Forest in fall to see the color, driving along the 70 miles of the Ohio National Scenic Byway that takes them through the most scenic areas of the forest's eastern section.
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