Visitors Guide to the
Fort Defiance Park
Fort Defiance Road
Cairo, Illinois

Street Parking Picnic Facilities Interpretive Signage Illinois Historic Site Scenic View General Information Kiiosk


Fort Defiance, known as Camp Defiance during the American Civil War, is a former military fortification located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers south of Cairo. By June of 1861, 12,000 Union troops occupied the area and another 38,000 men were within a one-day ride. The site became an important supply depot for Grant’s western army and a naval base as the Union and Confederacy battled for control of the lower Mississippi. The Union shipped supplies from Chicago to the far tip of Illinois via the Illinois Central Railroad, fueling Grant’s push deep into the Confederacy and altering the course of the Civil War. The strategic significance of the site has been known since prehistoric times with archaeological evidence of warfare dating to the Mississippian era. It is the southernmost point as well as the lowest point in the state of Illinois. Fort Defiance Park, formerly a State Park, is owned and maintained by the city of Cairo. The site offers an old observation tower which visitors can use to see the confluence.

  The Lewis and Clark Connection
On November 14, 1803 Captain Meriwether Lewis noted in his journal that “this evening landed on the point at which the Ohio and Mississippi form there junchon.” The Corps of Discovery stayed for six days at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers one of the longest stops made by the expedition. The captains noted the mistletoe on the large timber and to their surprise, caught a 128 pound blue catfish. Their stay allowed Lewis to teach Captain William C. Clark the use of the navigational equipment; a compass and sextant. Because the 3rd Principal Meridian begins at the mouth of the Ohio, astronomical observations at this point were crucial.
Visit our special Lewis and Clark Section to learn more about the Corps of Discovery’s experience during their stay in the Middle Mississippi River Valley.’s special coverage includes information on all of the region’s sites and events as well as supplemental articles relating to the expedition’s experience during the winter of 1803-04.
  Visiting Fort Defiance Park
          Dawn - Dusk

There is no charge to visit Fort Defiance Park.
Directions: Fort Defiance Park is located off US-62/US-60 south of downtown Cairo at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
  GPS Coordinates
36° 59.248'
W 89° 09.012'
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