LaRue-Pine Hills: An Adventurous Family Getaway

If you’re a family that loves the great outdoors, pack up your gear and head to LaRue-Pine Hills in the stunning Shawnee National Forest. This place is a hidden gem, perfect for those who crave both excitement and a touch of history.

First off, let’s talk about those jaw-dropping limestone bluffs. Rising 150 feet from the Mississippi floodplain, these impressive formations have been around for millions of years. Just imagine Lewis and Clark marveling at these very bluffs back in 1803! The bluffs stretch for about five miles along Highway 3, making for a scenic drive you’ll want to pull over and snap pics of every few minutes.

Nature at Its Best

LaRue-Pine Hills isn’t just about the bluffs, though. This area is a biodiversity hotspot with 14 different natural communities spread over 4.5 square miles. You’ve got forests, wetlands, prairies, glades, and barrens all in one place. It’s like nature’s greatest hits album! Plus, the variety of ecosystems means there’s always something new to discover, whether you’re hiking, bird-watching, or just exploring with the kiddos.

The Research Natural Area

For the little scientists in your family, the LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond Research Natural Area is a must-see. Covering 2,811 acres, this protected area is home to over 1,350 species of plants and animals. Many of these species are rare or endangered, so it’s a fantastic spot for budding naturalists to learn about conservation. Remember, though, no collecting plants or animals – let’s keep this place pristine for future generations!

Geology Rocks!

Speaking of learning, the geology here is seriously cool. Millions of years ago, Illinois was a massive inland sea. Over time, the sandy shores turned into sandstone formations, and the deepest parts of the sea became the towering limestone bluffs you see today. These bluffs are made of Devonian-age Bailey Limestone, which is about 408 million years old. It’s a real-life science lesson that you can touch!

Family-Friendly Tips

Before you head out, here are a few family-friendly tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay on the Trails: To protect the natural beauty and biodiversity, make sure to stick to the marked paths.
  • Pack a Picnic: There are plenty of spots with incredible views where you can sit down and enjoy a family meal.
  • Leave No Trace: Teach the kids the importance of taking everything you bring with you, including trash. Let’s keep LaRue-Pine Hills beautiful!
  • Respect Wildlife: It’s tempting to get up close and personal with the animals, but remember to observe from a distance.

Adventures Await!

Whether you’re hiking the trails, exploring the wetlands, or just soaking in the epic views from the bluffs, LaRue-Pine Hills is an adventure waiting to happen. It’s a place where your family can reconnect with nature and each other. So what are you waiting for? Lace up those hiking boots, grab your backpacks, and get ready for a family adventure you’ll never forget!

Happy trails, and see you out there! Looking for more detailed information? Read here for a full area guide!

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