Located near Ellis Grove and Chester, Illinois, Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site preserves the time-worn earthen remains of Fort Kaskaskia, constructed by the French to defend the town of Kaskaskia.
Founded in 1703, Kaskaskia served as the region's principal commercial center for more than a century, and also served as the first capital of Illinois from 1818 to 1820. The small fort, containing only a three-room barrack and a kitchen, was built in 1759 but apparently never fully completed. The fort was periodically occupied by French or U.S. troops until 1807 and sheltered local settlers during Indian scares rising from the War of 1812.
Today’s historic site consists of four major sections: the remains of Fort Kaskaskia, Garrison Hill Cemetery, the Mississippi River overlook and picnic area, and a large campground. The remnants of Fort Kaskaskia include long earthworks forming a rough square, with bastions at the corners. Garrison Hill Cemetery was established in 1891 by the General Assembly for the remains of early settlers whose graves were threatened by the flooding of Kaskaskia. A large monument erected in 1892 and commemorating the early settlers is also located in the cemetery. The grassy bluff overlooking the Mississippi provides a sweeping view of the river and Kaskaskia Island. Panels describe the rich history of Kaskaskia village, including its destruction in the 1880s-1890s by the Mississippi River.
The overlook and nearby day-use area include picnic shelters with tables and grills. A campground includes tent-camping sites and thirty-two electrified sites. Playground equipment is located near each end of the day-use area. A footpath leads to the Pierre Menard Home State Historic Site, located at the bottom of the bluff.