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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Celandine poppy. Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) is a highly prized spring wildflower. It is found on the talus slopes at the base of the limestone cliffs. Photo by Penny Stritch.

Pink azalea. Pink azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum) is found on acidic cherty soils on the dry ridge tops at LaRue Pine Hills. They are almost always at peak bloom on Mother's day weekend in May. Photo by Penny Stritch.

Cleft phlox. Cleft phlox (Phlox bifida) is at it best when it occurs in massive colonies covering talus slopes and mesic forest floors. Photo by Penny Stritch.

Woodland Sunflower. The days of late summer and early autumn bring the yellow blooms of the aster family into prominence in the upland forests at LaRue Pine Hills. Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) is a commonly encountered autumn wildflower. Photo by Larry Allain, USGS PLANTS Database.

the 300 foot high limestone cliffs.
As one drives down the levee access road your first view of the LaRue-Pine Hills research natural area are the magnificent 300 foot high limestone cliffs. Photo Larry Stritch.

the LaRue swamps. Only when the yellow flowers of bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) appear above the surface of the swamp waters will you know that this carnivorous plant is part of the swamp ecosystem. The purple appearing plants on the surface of the water are Mexican mosquito fern (Azolla mexicana). The aquatic green plants floating on the surface are several species of duckweed (Lemna spp.), the United States' smallest flowering plant Columbian watermeal (Wolffia columbiana), and common duckmeat (Spirodela polyrrhiza). Photo Larry Stritch.

the LaRue Swamps.
A typical view of the LaRue swamps. Notice that entire surface of the swamp is dominated by aquatic plants. Photo Larry Stritch.

A view from atop the Pine Hills at the LaRue swamps below. The views from atop the Pine Hills give the observer an opportunity to see the LaRue swamps below. These swamps are derived from meander bends of a previous route of the Big Muddy river. Photo Larry Stritch.

LaRue Pine Hill

Forest: Shawnee National Forest

District: Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District

Description: LaRue Pine Hills’ unique characteristics dictate and support a rich biodiversity. It covers about 4.5 square miles (3,547 acres) and contains 14 natural communities including forests, swamps, ponds, wetlands, hill prairie, limestone barrens, and striking geologic features. LaRue Pine Hills supports nearly 1,200 species of vascular plants and as such is one of the country’s most diverse areas within an area 4.5 square miles.

Viewing Information: Throughout the year, numerous wildflowers can be seen in this beautiful area. Spring ephemerals including spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), cleft phlox (Phlox bifida), celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), dog-tooth violet (Erythronium americanum), and sessile trillium (Trillium sessile) are commonly encountered on the rich mesic slopes. Spring flowering shrubs are encountered sporadically across the landscape. Several shrubs of note are Pink Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum), rusty nannyberry (Viburnum rufidulum) and in the autumn members of the Aster family are common across the landscape. Autumn wildflowers such as showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), blue-stem goldenrod (Solidago caesia), woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus), joe-pye-weed (Eupatorium maculatum) and various asters (Aster cordifolius, A. divaricatus, and Aster azureus) will delight visitors into late October.

Safety First: Be prepared in spring, summer and autumn for rapid changes in weather as thunderstorms may develop rapidly. Timber rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins are present so please stay on trails. None of these snakes tend to be aggressive but they will defend themselves if stepped on or threatened at close range. Just watch the ground as you walk and you should not have any problems. The lower bluff road is closed seasonally to allow for undisturbed movement of snakes from the swamps into the uplands in autumn and from the uplands to the swamps in spring. Temperatures in the summer can be high 90 to 100 F. Bring plenty of sunscreen and insect repellant. Poison ivy is common; remember leaves of three let it be.

Directions: Take Hwy 146 west to Hwy 3, then Hwy 3 north to Big Muddy Levee Road, and turn right; or take Hwy 149 to Hwy 3, then Hwy 3 south to turn left on Big Muddy Levee Road. On Big Muddy Levee Road travel east 3 miles to LaRue Road where the road Ts. Here, turn right for Winters Pond parking area or turn left and proceed 0.6 miles to Pine Hills Road (FR 236). See Map.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest, Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District.

Closest Town: Murphysboro, Illinois.