Fern Rocks

Nature Preserve Area: 
Location and Access: 
From Makanda, take blacktop road north 0.5 mile to Giant City State Park entrance, then take the park road 0.4 mile. The nature preserve is in the park to the south and west of the park road.

Fern Rocks is a 170 acre preserve within Giant City State Park. The area contains high quality dry and mesic upland forest, cliff and bedrock outcrops of the Greater Shawnee Hills Section of the Shawnee Hills Natural Division. The importance of this portion of the Shawnee Hills as a natural science study area was recognized as early as 1870 when Southern Illinois Normal University botanist George Hazen French named the area for its abundance of ferns including Christmas fern, marginal fern, maidenhair, lady fern and several spleenwort ferns. The forested portions of the preserve are dominated by oaks and hickories or by maples. Outstanding sandstone cliffs, bluffs and shelter communities support a large variety of vegetation. Along the north facing slope, shade-loving species are found including mosses and liverworts. Notable crevice occurring species are Forbes' saxifrage, partridge-berry and small alumroot. Fern Rocks is the type locality for two plants discovered by French in the late 1800's: French's shooting star and Forbes' saxifrage. It contains one of the most spectacular spring wildflower displays to be seen anywhere in the state. Ridgetop abandoned fields have reverted to native prairie grasses and are being managed to restore a southern Illinois barrens community, through prescribed burning and reintroduction of native grassland forbs. Fern Rocks is a wonderful site for hiking, birding and nature study.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
August 1973
170 acres
Topographic Quad: 
Topo Map: 
For further information: 
Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Biologist, 9053 Route 148, Suite B, Marion IL 62959 (618/993-7023)