Visitors Guide to the
LaRue-Pine Hills Research Natural Area
LaRue Road
Wolf Lake, Illinois

Gravel Parking Picnic Facilities Hiking Trails Scenic Views Wildlife Viewing Horseback Riding Trails Camping Facilities


LaRue-Pine Hills is one of the most unique areas in the world. LaRue-Pine Hills is a protected area within the Shawnee National Forest. As the Big Muddy River flowed out from the uplands it was channelized between levees on it route to the Mississippi River. The channel that the river abandoned evolved into a swamp at the base of the Pine Hills Bluff, part of the Ozark Hills of Southern Illinois. Enough water made its way into the swamp to allow ash, red swamp maple, and cypress trees to take root. As with many places in the Shawnee National Forest, the beauty we see today is rooted in its geologic history. At LaRue-Pine Hills it took millions of years to form its bedrock before nature’s erosive forces took over and created the 150-foot limestone bluffs that now rise out of the Mississippi floodplain. The rocks that make up the bluffs at LaRue-Pine Hills are Devonian age Bailey Limestone (over 400 million years old.) Limestone is composed of the shells of dead sea animals  and over millions of years these layers of shell deposits were pressed into rock. Once the sea receded, this bedrock was exposed to nature’s erosive forces. Wind and water began to wear away the rock creating ridges and gullies, carving out the beautiful limestone rock formations of LaRue-Pine Hills and the 350-foot limestone bluffs that now rise out of the Mississippi floodplain. These massive bluffs extend roughly 5 miles along Highway 3 are as impressive today as they were to explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1803.

Flanking the LaRue-Pine Hills on the east side between the bluffs and flatland swamps is Snake Road. Snakes and other reptiles like to hibernate in the bluffs during the winter and feed in the swamps during the warmer months. The U.S. Forest Service closes off the road between the swamp and the bluff to vehicular traffic from the first of September to mid-October to allow snakes, toads, frogs, lizards, and turtles to cross the road unmolested. The Forest Service closes the road again from mid-March to mid-May to allow the creatures to return to the swamp. Half of the 102 species of reptiles native to Illinois are involved in these migrations across what has become known as Snake Road.

There are two hiking trails at LaRue-Pine Hills. The Inspiration Point is a 1/4 mile trail that leads to a rock pinnacle called Inspiration Point. White Pine Trail is a T-bone trail with stretches of 2 miles and 2 1/2 miles. This moderate to difficult trail meanders through old wildlife openings. After the leaves have fallen, Bald Knob Cross can be seen. Horseback riding is allowed on White Pine Trail. Developed trailheads are at the north end of Pine Hills Campground and west end of trail at Allen’s Flat. The River to River Trail runs past Inspiration Point. Primitive camping is allowed at a 13 campsite campground on the property.

  Bird Watching
The LaRue-Pine Hills area
is listed on the National Audubon Society's Great River Birding Trail. In the upland forested ravines birdwatchers can easily find Kentucky and Worm-eating Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrushes and other forest birds. The site contains one of the most northernmost southern swamps that attract igrating herons, egrets, and other shorebirds. The site is also home to a variety of raptors.
  The Lewis and Clark Connection
While traveling up the Mississippi River, Captain Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal on November 24, 1803 and made the following observations as the Corps of Discovery passed the LaRua-Pine Hills area: “the other appearing low and subject to be overflowed for a considirable distance say 2 or three miles…”
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 the the LaRue-Pine Hills Research Natural Area
          Dawn - Dusk

There is no charge to visit the LaRue-Pine Hills Research Natural Area.
Directions: LaRue Pine Hills can be accessed from several roads off of IL-3 in the Wolf Lake area, which is approximately 6 miles south of Grand Tower. Look at the map provided by the U.S. Forest Service for options.
  GPS Coordinates
37° 32.730'
W 89° 26.368'
  Learn more about the Union County area.  
  LaRue-Pine Hills
The official web page of the LaRue-Pine Hills area provided by the U.S. Forest Service
Lutheran Memorial
State Park
General John A. Logan
Sikeston Depot
Cultural Center
  Regional Guides
to the Middle Mississippi River Valley
  Meeting of the Great Rivers
National Scenic Byway
Ste. Genevieve &
French Colonial Country
Gateway to the West
St. Louis & St. Louis County
   Meeting the Missouri
Historic St. Charles County
The Lincoln Hills Region
Northeast Missouri
  The Tri-States Area
Iowa, Illinois & Missouri
The Mississippi River
Meets the Ohio River Home Page
Your index to over 800 informative pages covering the Middle Mississippi River Valley.
  At we strive for accuracy.
If you have any corrections, suggestions or information
you would like to see contact the webmaster.
For advertising information contact marketing.
Copyright 2001-2011 - Elsah, Illinois