MOUNT MORRIS—One of Illinois’ last stand of native white pines, White Pines Forest State Park is the perfect place for a family get-a-way.
Also one of the southernmost stands of white pines in the United States, White Pines Forest is situated on 385 acres and operated by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources.
A movement was started in the early 1900s to set aside the area as a state park. Through efforts of Ogle County nature lovers, a bill appropriating $30,000 for purchase of land was passed by the legislature in 1903, but the measure was vetoed. In 1927 they had more success and the forest was acquired.
Located in the heart of the Rock River valley near Mount Morris, the park meanders along the banks of the Spring and Pine creeks.
Among the park’s most interesting features are the concrete fords that span the creeks, allowing visitors to drive through the flowing streams. Four concrete sidewalks leading up to the stream bank for viewing or angling have also been added.
A perfect place for family outings, several picnic areas along Pine Creek are complete with water, fireplaces, tables and a children’s playgrounds. Of the four shelters in these areas, two can be reserved on-line using the ReserveAmerica website, while the other two are first-come, first-served.
White Pines Inn, originally constructed by the Civilian Conversation Corps in the 1930s, has undergone an extensive renovation. To preserve the historic ambiance of the log cabin inn, the original stone and timbers were retained and the new features were carefully selected to enhance the original structure.
The historic lounge area, which is part of the main lodge, is filled with crafts and artwork, including a gift shop that offers everything from souvenirs to tasty treats.
There are 13 one-room cabins and three cabins with four rooms, for a total of 25 guest rooms. Each cabin sleeps four people and is complete with shower, gas log fireplace, one queen bed and one trundle bed. All cabins are air-conditioned and heated, and have telephones, televisions with DVD/VCR’s, refrigerator and coffee makers.
Numerous homemade delicacies are offered at the White Pines Inn Restaurant. The restaurant can accommodate up to 223 people with several meeting/banquet rooms, one that can seat up to 125. Wedding receptions, retreats, seminars and family reunions are all welcome. The lodge also offers a matinee dinner theatre.
White Pines has 103 campsites with vehicular access and a shower/flush toilet building. There are three electric hook-up sites which are non-reservable. Campsites may be reserved by visiting the ReserveAmerica website.
Availability is generally not a problem aside from holiday weekends and there is an alcohol ban in the campground. Limitations on a site are four adults or one family per site, two tents per site and two vehicles per site. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table.
Whether you choose an easy walking trail or a more difficult path, three of the seven marked trails are less than a mile long and provide opportunity for sightseeing.The trails have color-coded markers to aid the hiker and a nature trail with a limestone-screened path is accessible for the physically challenged.
Small mammals, including squirrels, raccoons and chipmunks thrive among the pines while a variety of birds call White Pines Forest home.
For lodge reservations, call 815-946-3817 or write White Pines Inn, 6712 West Pines Road, Mt. Morris, IL, 61054. Website: www.whitepinesinn.com or Email the lodge at: firstname.lastname@example.org