Charles Mound, Illinois | Bleader

Charles Mound, Illinois

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  • John Poplett
On a road trip from California to Chicago this past summer I became obsessed with elevation, which is what you do if you’re from the midwest. We started driving upward almost immediately upon leaving the Pacific Ocean south of Monterey; and we didn’t seem to come down—all the way down—till around South Dakota, a state that indeed struck me as a bit of a downer. Approaching Illinois, I happened to notice the highest point in this state marked in the atlas. Was it a mountain? A plateau? A hill, even?

No. It was called Charles Mound.

A few facts about Charles Mound (full disclosure: mostly via Wikipedia, as the literature on Charles Mound seems scarce): It’s 1,235 feet the long way, and the highest natural point in Illinois. (The highest, uh, unnatural point? The Willis Tower.) It’s near Scales Mound, a nationally registered historical site that boasts “well maintained 19th and early 20th century vernacular houses and commercial buildings,” and not far from Galena, and part of the Driftless region, the gorgeous rolling geographic area that spans parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Charles Mound is on private land owned by Jean and Wayne Wuebbels, who open it up from time to time—but only once a month throughout the summer, so you’re out of luck if you want to visit this year.

Since learning about Charles Mound I’ve made a couple of unsuccessful bids to go there, to no avail so far. I was in the area recently with my boyfriend, and I somehow failed to draw him to the Mound. Instead we went to Dubuque, where there’s another tall hill. This one you can take an elevator up, though.

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