West of DuQuoin and south of Steeleville on the Randolph-Jackson County
line is a unique 198-acre area known as Piney Creek Ravine State Natural
Area. Purchased in 1972 for its rare plant species and other natural features,
it is one of only two locations in the state where short-leaf pines grow
naturally. Piney Creek Ravine is dedicated nature preserve within
the Illinois State Nature Preserve system.
A hiking trail that winds along the top of a bluff overlooking the creek
crosses scenic Piney Creek. The trail is especially beautiful in the autumn
when fall colors abound, and also in the winter, when the leafless trees
allow unconstricted viewing into the ravine below.
Plants at Piney Creek Ravine are more typically northern in distribution,
as well as Ozarkian southern species. Differing habitat types also contribute
to the general diversity of Piney Creek Ravine. Communities range from
dry, exposed bluff associations, dominated by post oak, blackjack oak
and American agave, to moist ravine forests with splendid spring wildflowers
and sandy stream banks with a variety of moisture-loving plants, such
as sedges, smartweeds and scouring rushes.
Several rare plant species, including a fern, sedge and buttercup, as
well as the native short-leaved pine, occur within the preserve. The ravine
provides moist, shaded habitat that is well suited for a variety of non-flowering plants such as mosses and
liverworts. One of the most interesting is sphagnum moss, which forms
spongy, layered mats and is more characteristic of northern Illinois.
A very common plant is poison ivy, which can be recognized by three-part leaves,
and can cause a rash on most people exposed to the plant.
Piney Creek Ravine provides year-round bird watching opportunities, especially
during spring migration and throughout the summer. A variety of reptiles
and amphibians, including the American toad, box turtle, fence lizard, rough
green snake, garter snake and blue racer, have been recorded from the area.
Copperheads are the only venomous snakes reported here, but timber rattlesnakes
may be present. Common mammals of the preserve include opossum, cottontail,
chipmunk, grey and fox squirrel, raccoon and white-tailed deer.
Because Piney Creek Ravine is a dedicated nature preserve, no hunting, no canoeing, kayaking
or consumptive use is allowed. Camping is prohibited. Hiking, sightseeing
and bird watching are permissible. Please leave the area litter free when
you leave and enjoy this unique state site.
Piney Creek Ravine contains the largest body of prehistoric rock art in
Illinois. Almost 200 designs believed to date to the Late Woodland (A.D.
500-1000) and Mississippian (A.D. 1000-1550) periods occur within the
ravine. Prehistoric rock art was created by either pecking and grinding
(petroglyphs) or painting (pictographs) designs on rock surfaces. Petroglyphs
were created by using a small hard rock as a hammer to peck a design into
a softer rock, such as sandstone. Paintings were created by grinding minerals,
such as limestone, into a yellow or red powder, which when mixed with animal
fat adheres to rock surfaces.
Petroglyphs that can be seen within Piney Creek Ravine
include human figures, deer, serpents and crosses. Pictographs
within the ravine include human figures, deer, birds, human hands and
A commonly asked question is "Why was rock art created?" Many
of the designs within Piney Creek
Ravine appear to have been created as part of religious ceremonies. These
include pecked human-like figures with wings instead of arms, a common
method in Native American religious art of portraying beings with spiritual
power. Other human-like figures appear to be wearing horned head dresses,
again an indication of spiritual power. The deer and bird images found
within the ravine also may represent spirits rather than actual animals.
The rock art within Piney Creek Ravine represents a legacy left to us
by the prehistoric Native Americans who once lived within the area. It
can be easily damaged or degraded. Any chalking, painting, drawing, carving
or other disturbance to the rock art or any rock surface within the ravine
is forbidden under state law and is punishable by fines. Limit
your interaction with
rock art to taking photographs. Help protect and preserve this unique
gift left to us by the earliest inhabitants of this area.
Report any disturbance or vandalism to the rock art to Site Superintendent,
Randolph State Fish and Wildlife Area, (618) 826-2706 or the Department's
Cultural Resource Coordinator, (217) 782-3715.
- 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.