Cairo is the southernmost city in the U.S. state of Illinois. Cairo is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Cairo has the lowest elevation of any location in Illinois and is the only Illinois city surrounded by levees. It is in the area known as Little Egypt.
The entire city was evacuated during the 2011 Mississippi River Floods, after the Ohio River rose higher than the 1937 flood levels, with the possibility of 15 feet of water inundating Cairo.
With the decline in river trade, Cairo has experienced a marked decline in its economy and population. Its highest population was 15,203 in 1920; in 2010 it had 2,831 residents. The community and region are working to stop abandonment of the city, restore its architectural landmarks, and develop heritage tourism focusing on its history and relationship to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, to bring new opportunities to the community.