A Little Time and a Keyboard: Apple River Fort Historic Site on the Illinois Frontier

Apple River Fort Historic Site on the Illinois Frontier

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Apple River Fort reconstruction in Elizabeth, IL was constructed using the same materials and tools pioneers would have used.

The Black Hawk War often receives little mention in our history books. So, we were surprised to learn about the Apple River Fort State Historic Site in Elizabeth, Illinois commemorating frontier life during this period. The site consists of an interpretive center and a reconstruction of the fort.

We began our visit with a stop in the Interpretive Center. The guide was extremely knowledgeable providing a detailed account of history of the fort, the Black Hawk War and life on the Illinois frontier. Exhibits outline further information about the fort and the Black Hawk War. From the Interpretive Center, the replica fort is about 1/4 mile walk.

Interpreters bring Illinois frontier life alive at Apple River Fort.

During the warmer months, interpreters bring the fort alive. The fort is an example of a civilian fort that pioneers constructed for protection from raids. The Apple River Fort was constructed in 1832 for protection from Chief Black Hawk and attacked not too long after. In fact, the fort was attacked on June 24, 1832. At the time, it was being protected by about 30 men and 40 women and children. The small group was attacked by a force of 200 men. We learned that the women did not fire weapons but helped by reloading them for the men. Amazingly, the group was able to hold off the attack.

A peek inside 1830's life at Apple River Fort in Illinois.
A peek inside 1830's life.

Archaeological digs identified the location of the fort in 1995. In 1996, the fort was reconstructed using the same materials and tools the pioneers would have. A look inside the buildings of the fort show various elements that would have been found in pioneer homes of the 1830's. By taking a walk around the fort and peering inside the three reconstructed buildings, we gained an appreciation of how little the settlers had to work with while being attacked.

Apple River Fort gifts us tangible insight into an often neglected slice of history. The fort provided a nice and interesting stop during our recent trip to Galena.

  • Interpreters are at the fort on weekends May-October, see website to verify times.
  • The fort and Interpretive Center are open Wednesday-Sunday 9AM-5PM May - October. The site is open Fridays & Saturdays November - April 9AM-4PM.
  • The site is by donation, so please donate a little to help maintain this resource.
  • Parking is available by the interpretive center. 
  • You can walk up to the fort or drive up to it.
  • There are restrooms and vending machines available at the interpretive center.
Apple River  Fort and the Illinois Frontier


  1. So glad you posted this! We've never heard of Apple River Fort, and are always looking for mini trips from Chicago. This is going on our to-visit list!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Julie! You can also couple this with a trip to Apple River Canyon State Park if you aren't going all the way to Galena: http://www.alittletimeandakeyboard.com/2016/08/hiking-near-galena-illinois.html#more Or, they make for nice stops on the way to or from Galena. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

  2. Very interesting to learn more about this skirmish. The pictures really bring the post to life.

  3. An interesting place.