Larue-Pine Hills-Otter Pond Research Natural Area

Shawnee National Forest, Near Wolf Lake, Illinois

Larue-Pine Hills-Otter Pond Research Natural Area does not offer reservations through Please take a look at the area details below for more information about visiting this location. Enjoy your visit!


LaRue-Pine Hills is one of the most unique areas in the world. As with many places in the Shawnee National Forest, the beauty we see today is rooted in geologic history.  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 area derives its name from the nearby tiny settlement of LaRue and the distinct short-leaf native pine stands on its blufftops.  These massive bluffs extending roughly 5 miles along Highway 3 are as impressive today as they were to explorers Lewis and Clark in 1803. While traveling up the Mississippi River, Captain Meriwether Lewis writes in his journal:

Novr. 22ed 1803 …but here putts in some high clifts the summits of which are crowned with pitch-pine & seeder, these rocks are nearly perpendicular in many places sixty feet, and the height of the hills appear about to be about 120 feet above the banks which forms their base…

LaRue-Pine Hills’ unique physical characteristics dictate and support a rich biodiversity not found anywhere else in the country. In all, the area covers about 4.5 square miles (3547 acres) and contains 14 natural communities including forests, wetland, prairie, glade and barren ecosystems and geologic features. Please help protect this special place for future generations to enjoy, study and appreciate.  Refer to the LaRue-Pine Hills brochure/map to learn more about this very special place within the Shawnee National Forest.  

Camping is allowed in Pine Hills Campground.