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Hike to ancient stone walls Saturday

  • Mark Motsinger stands at the stone wall at War Bluff in Pope County.

    Mark Motsinger stands at the stone wall at War Bluff in Pope County.

Brian DeNeal
updated: 3/22/2012 9:20 PM

Carrier Mills-Stonefort High School history teacher Mark Motsinger is leading a hike Saturday for the River to River Trail Society to three ancient stone walls in the area.

Everyone is welcome to meet the group 10 a.m. for the "Indian Wall Hike" at Shawnee Mart on state Route 145 in Eddyville and will travel as a caravan. The first stop is the wall at War Bluff in Pope County, then to Millstone Knob in Johnson County and to Stonefort Bluff in Saline County -- the wall from which the village of Stonefort derived its name.

The walls in Southern Illinois have been a mystery to many and a fascination to Motsinger all his life.

"We know there are at least 10 walls (in Southern Illinois) and there could be others," Motsinger said.

Some, like War Bluff are very apparent and others, like the one at Millstone Knob, was dismantled and likely used to build other structures at the later American Indian site of Millstone village.

There are other stone walls such as Fort Mountain in Georgia and Hill Fort in Ohio known to have been used as fortifications, but Motsinger and archeologists doubt the stone structures in Illinois served a protective purpose.

"These are ancient walls we have no explanation for," Motsinger said.

They would not have been large enough to protect from attacking humans. More recent walls were built by settlers in the shapes of funnels upon bluffs as though they were used to drive animals over.

The old Southern Illinois walls more likely served a spiritual purpose.

"The general thing now is they were delineated spaces for ceremonial purposes," Motsinger said.

The walls obviously were laborious to build, as would have been other ceremonial sites throughout the world such as at Medicine Wheel, Wyo., and Stonehenge.

While these walls are no Stonehenge in their scale, they are special places to Motsinger.

"What started the whole thing out was when I was a little kid my dad took me to Stonefort Bluff. In my mind I thought I was going to see Fort Apache," Motsinger said.

While his imagination had built the wall up larger than what turned out to be reality, that exposure began a lifetime of researching walls throughout the midwest that Motsinger intends to present in a book.

The rest of the spring hiking schedule -- with all hikes starting at 10 a.m. unless otherwise noted -- is:

  • March 31 -- Herod Bluff and Benham Ridge area led by Eric Johnson. Meet at Herod Post Office on state Route 34.


  • April 7 -- Dixon Springs to Lake Glendale led by Bill Gilmour. Meet at the boat ramp parking lot at Lake Glendale, state Route 145 south of Eddyville.


  • April 14 -- Cove Hollow lower trail and Cedar Lake led by Anne Gaylord and Don Monte. Meet at the boat ramp parking lot on Boat Ramp Road at Cedar Lake. Take state Route 127 south from Old Route 13 in Murphysboro 8.7 miles to Ramp Road and go east 1.4 miles.


  • April 15 -- Work Day on River to River Trail, Camp Cadiz area with Shawnee National Forest trail crew, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Late arrivals are welcome, no tools needed, bring water bottles, lunch, sturdy shoes, long pants, long sleeve shirt and gloves. Meet at Camp Cadiz Campground off of Karbers Ridge Road 3 miles west of state Route 1.


  • April 21 -- Max Creek Loop "The Vortex" led by Brian DeNeal. Meet at New Simpson Hill School at Tunnel Hill on U.S. Route 45.


  • April 28 -- Williams Hill and Sally Hollow led by Brian DeNeal. Meeting spot to be announced.

  • June 2 -- National Trails Day, time and place to be announced.

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