Scott Air Force Base, located in Belleville, Illinois, boasts a rich history that extends far beyond its base borders. While it is primarily known for its vital role in supporting the United States Air Force’s global operations, it is also surrounded by a region steeped in history and culture that is worth exploring. From the early Native American settlements to the unexplored natural wonders, the area offers a plethora of opportunities to discover the past and present.
One cannot truly grasp the significance of Scott Air Force Base without appreciating the history of the surrounding area. Before European settlers arrived, Native American tribes, including the Illinois and Miami, inhabited the land. The remnants of their presence can be seen in the many historic sites and museums throughout the region. The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, for example, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site just a short drive from the base. It preserves the remains of the ancient city of Cahokia, which was once the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico. Visitors can explore the mounds, climb to the top for panoramic views, and immerse themselves in the rich Native American history.
Moving forward several centuries, the Belleville Historic District itself tells a fascinating story of the early settlers. Founded in 1814, it showcases stunning architecture from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Stroll through the streets and admire the Victorian-style homes, mansions, and churches that have stood the test of time. The district also hosts several annual festivals and events, such as the Art on the Square, which showcases local and national artists. These events provide an opportunity to not only appreciate the history but also connect with the vibrant arts and culture scene of the region.
Nature enthusiasts will be delighted to discover the unique beauty that surrounds Scott Air Force Base. Hiking and biking trails wind through the stunning landscapes of nearby parks, such as Pere Marquette State Park and Horseshoe Lake State Park. These areas offer a chance to reconnect with nature, observe wildlife, and enjoy recreational activities like fishing and boating. One can also explore the Shawnee National Forest, known for its breathtaking rock formations, such as the Garden of the Gods and Giant City State Park. These natural wonders are sure to leave visitors in awe of the geological history that has shaped the region.
For history buffs, venturing beyond the immediate area will unveil a wealth of significant sites. Visit the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois, and walk in the footsteps of America’s 16th president. The site preserves Lincoln’s former residence and provides a glimpse into his personal life and political career. Another must-visit destination is the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. As one of the tallest monuments in the world, it symbolizes the western expansion of the United States and offers panoramic views of the Mississippi River and the city.
Beyond the base, Scott Air Force gets its character and charm from the surrounding area’s rich history and attractions. Whether exploring the ancient Native American settlements, marveling at architectural masterpieces, or immersing oneself in the natural wonders, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Take the time to go beyond the base and discover the hidden gems that make this region a truly exceptional place to live or visit.