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Big River State Forest

RR1 Keithsburg, Keithsburg, Illinois USA

  • Independent
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“the area’s oldest pine plantation”

Big River State Forest in western Illinois’ Henderson County is 8 miles north of Oquawka on the Oquawka-Keithsburg blacktop. The forest is managed primarily to demonstrate sound forestry practices, with demonstrations and talks on these practices available to interested groups. The 200-acre Oquawka Refuge, acquired by the state in 1925, contains the area’s oldest pine plantation. Established in 1928 and known as the Milroy Plantation, the 17-acre area contains red, white and jack pines that tower more than 50 feet high. Subsequent land purchases, beginning in 1941 and 1942, and a lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have brought the forest to 2,900 acres. Big River State Forest is a remnant of a vast prairie woodland border area that once covered much of Illinois. Among its vegetation are two endangered plants - penstemon, commonly known as bearded tongue, and Patterson’s bindweed, which N.H. Patterson documented in 1873, for the first time anywhere, in the forest .Common plants found in the prairie are big and little bluestem, Indian grass, June grass, grama grass, flower-of-an-hour, cottonweed, prairie coneflower, pale prairie coneflower, prairie bush clover, purple prairie clover and blazing star. Also found are western sunflower, kittentail, lead plant, prickly pear cactus, flowering spurge, aromatic sumac, false dragonhead, Sullivan’s milkweed, horsemint, goat’s-rue and hoary puccoon.

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Reviewed by

  • Road Warrior
  • 401 Reviews
  • 296 Helpful
18 September 2014
Rated 5.0

This walk at the Big River State forest was one to remember for sure. The variety of pine trees that can be seen there is absolutely amazing. The height of them can impress you and you feel you are in another world or a fairy-tale.

Not far away from Oquawka, the forest gives you the opportunity to walk it and stay for a picnic or even camp as there are campsites available.

The experience while walking at the trails is fantastic and one can take beautiful views from the scenic area.

Get your cameras and enjoy!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Kathleen Oanes

  • 103 Reviews
  • 80 Helpful
15 August 2014
Rated 4.0

This is ideal for those who are looking for nature trips. This serves as the shelter of some endangered plant species. Besides that, there's nothing really "wow" about this forest. Most of the plants seen here are really attractive to look at; especially when in full bloom. It's a good go-to place for those who would just want to go on a stroll and breathe in fresh air.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
13 December 2019

I live near this place and drive around inside. There are designated horse trails everywhere. It's mainly roads that weave around in this place. There are signs all over stating people are now allowed to enter the forested areas (habitat destruction.) However, among the pine plantations there are none signs and you may walk beneath their forest canopies. I love trees and I have to say that since the pines are all spaced in perfect rows that it feels very unnatural & always it's dark beneath and mostly-barren. I drive around because I'm looking for tree seed. I was pleasantly surprised to find Quercus marilandica or very probably (Q. marilandica x Quercus velutina : Q. xbushii) due to the two known to hybridize freely. And I say likely because the fall color is bright red which is not common for Blackjack. For me, it's a few hours to kill while taking my dog for a ride. It's very rare we see anyone else. Big River State Forest is made up of sand-only and my Volkswagen Passat Wagon will grab going up over some rolling hills so be aware when you think it's time to gun it. The place is 99% Quercus velutina (everywhere you look.) Then the pines have slipped in here and there on their own. You'll find Jack Pine and White pine (Pinus banksiana & Pinus strobus) naturally-regenerating, but I don't believe the Red Pines (Pinus resinosa) are. Deer and wild turkeys are everywhere to be seen along the highway. Remember your birding binoculars. Cheers

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Big River State Forest

RR1 Keithsburg
Keithsburg, Illinois
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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
State park or forest
  • Fifty Amp
  • Full Hookup
  • Sewer Hookup
  • Water Hookup
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