For those who think central Illinois
is one big corn field, Sand Ridge State Forest will come as a pleasant
surprise. The forest is an island in a sea of agriculture. Just minutes
southwest of Peoria, this 7,200-acre forest, the largest of Illinois' state forests,
boasts sweeping expanses of native oak-hickory woodland, extensive
pine plantations, sprawling open fields, grasslands and completely unique sand
prairies. For a refreshing,
invigorating taste of unspoiled nature and an opportunity to experience
truly unique environment, Sand Ridge State Forest is ideal.
The area is the result of a prehistoric dry
period when more desert-like conditions existed. Today it remains one
of the few places in Illinois that supports an intriguing variety of plants
and animals more associated with the southwest than the Midwest,
including badger, silvery bladderpod,
pocket gopher and
prickly pear cactus, to
name a few.
The raw, undeveloped expanses of hardwood
and pine blanketing the panoramic vistas contain miles of outstanding
hiking, backpacking, snowmobiling and horseback riding opportunities.
Hunting of deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, dove and squirrel is permitted.
A hand trap shooting facility and an archery range are available.
For the dedicated outdoors person this is an island of opportunity to experience the diversity of Illinois. For
the day visitor, the forest offers picnic facilities and the chance for immersion in nature in the Henry
Allen Gleason Nature Preserve. Enjoy the pristine sand prairie
in a protected area closed to vehicles, domestic animals and hunting.
A bird watcher's paradise, Sand Ridge State
Forest also is an important nesting area for a great variety of neotropical
migratory birds, such as ovenbird, indigo bunting, veery and scarlet tanager.
Fifteen thousand years ago the flood waters
of the last glaciation period receded down the Illinois River valley leaving
a vast deposit of sand from near Pekin to past Beardstown and as far west
as San Jose. A subsequent period of extreme dryness and warmth invited
plants and animals of the southwestern states to extend their range. Shifting
winds sculpted 100-foot-high sand dunes evident today as the now wooded
ridges for which the forest is named.
In 1939, 5,504 acres of this forested tract
was purchased by the state to be managed by the Division of Forestry as
an experimental forest. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted pine trees
to control erosion and demonstrate the viability of growing a commercial
tree crop in sandy soil. The current 2,492 acres of pine plantations produce sawlog-size timber for Illinois' future needs. The native
oak-hickory forest is selectively utilized for a firewood
cutting program. Firewood collection is allowed at specific periods during the year.
In 1971, the Division of Land Management
took over management of the site and the area became known as Sand Ridge
State Forest. Today, the forest covers 7,500 acres--3996 acres of native
oak-hickory forest, 2,492 acres of pine and the rest in open fields and
What better way to spend the day than to
load up the car with the family for an old-fashioned picnic. The Turkey
Pass Picnic Area is located on Cactus Drive just north of Pine Campground.
Tables, grills, water, a shelter and pit-vault toilets are provided. Groups
of 25 or more must have a Group
Use Permit or may reserve the shelter using Reserve America.
If you and your family are interested in
a rustic setting for camping, Pine Campground is the place for you. It
contains 27 Class "C" sites featuring water, pit-vault toilets,
fire pads, and a place to park two vehicles. Oak Campground provides open
space, water, pit toilets and council rings for organized group camping. Horseman's Park offers a staging area for equestrian
camping and horseback riding activities, and has hitching rails, water, pit
toilets and a shelter area. Oak Campground and Horseman's Park have shelters and campsites
that can be rented by using the Reserve America Web site. If you are unable to reserve a campsite for the date you want, contact the site at (309) 597-2212 or by email. Back-country camping
is available at 12 primitive sites along 55 miles of trail providing a true
wilderness camping experience. Users must obtain a permit from the forest
headquarters prior to back-country use.
Groups of 25 people
or more must obtain a Group Use
Permit from site staff. Activity
Permits are required whenever a non-traditional use of any facility
is requested and/or any activity that might increase potential liability
to he Department.
Pine Campground Photo
Campgound Photo Gallery
Horseman's Campground Photo Gallery
Horseman's Park Campground offers Class C
camping for the equestrian community. The 50 miles of trails and more than 120 miles of fire lanes offer the average equestrian excellent opportunities
For a horse to cover all the trails and fire lanes, it would take a good
weekend's worth of riding. Fire pads, hitching rails, picket-line posts
and pit-vault toilets are provided for visitor use. A shelter
for day use can be reserved using Reserve America.
Day use for the equestrain community is provided
at Mockernut Meadow Day Use Area, which has fire pads, tables
and teathering posts. The brome grass provides a great cover for horses
and sand to meet the day-to-day demand. Water buffalo keeps the horses
watered and a hand pump across the road to the south provides water for
human consumption. Horses are not allowed in the hand pump area.
Forty-four miles of marked trails, ranging
from 1.5 to 15 miles each, and 120 miles of fire lanes offer unequaled
opportunities to the hiker, backpacker, horseback rider or snowmobiler.
A person can take advantage of 26 miles of
designated trails when there's at least 4 inches of snow. The trail head
is located at the Oak Campground and the trail is
open 24 hours a day.
An abundance of deer, red and gray fox, coyote,
squirrel, raccoon, quail, pheasant, woodcock and dove make this an ideal
location for hunting. Check the Sportsman's Digest and the Annual Digest of
Hunting & Trapping Regulation for requirements and shooting schedules.
Sand Ridge Hunter Fact
Sheet | Oakford Hunter
Ridge Sportsman's Digest | Oakford
Sportsmen's Digest | Sparks Pond
Sportsman's Digest | Henry Allen Gleason Sportsman's Digest | Revis Hill Prairie Sportsman's Digest | Windshield Card Web Page | Controlled Hunting Web Page
Hand Trap Range
A hand trap facility is open all year, except during
the upland game season, for visitors interested in shooting trap. Rifles
and handguns are not allowed on the hand trap range. Remember to put spent
shells and other liter in it's place. Register at the forest headquarters
and check the regulations before shooting.
From the west, east or south: Follow IL Rt
136 to Mason County Road 2800E and turn north. Continue in a straight
line for about 6 miles, through the village of Forest City. This road
will turn to the west and become Mason County Road 2300N and will lead
you directly into the forest. From the north, follow IL Rt 29 south out
of Pekin to the Manito Road, turn west and go to Manito, about 20 miles.
In Manito, watch for the sign for Mason County Road 2500N and again turn
west (right). In about 6 miles you will have entered the forest. From
either entrance, follow our clearly marked signs to the facility or destination
of your choice.
For more information contact site personnel
at Sand Ridge State Forest, P.O. Box 111, Forest City, IL 61532 or by
phone at 309-597-2212 or by fax at 309-597-2240 or by email.
For Your Information
In 1962, a forest fire burned more than 1500
acres of Sand Ridge. Please be very careful with smoking materials and
campfires. Report all fires to the forest headquarters immediately. The
fire lanes and trails are closed to all motorized traffic.
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity,
Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.