Bell Smith Springs offers visitors panoramic views of unspoiled wilderness. Visit some of the most unique rock formations in Southern Illinois. This area is the home of The Devil’s Backbone, a series of boulders that sprawl the creek bed and resemble a spine from certain vantage points within this natural area.
This Shawnee National Forest natural area has 4 different hikes each offering hikers one of a kind views of the Bell Smith Springs area. Hikes take visitors past unique geological formations like the Natural Land Bridge, which is the tallest natural land bridge in Illinois and Boulder falls, a beautiful waterfall after a refreshing spring rain. The creek that courses through this section of the Shawnee National Forest provides visitors with magnificent photo opportunities and a refreshing spot to relax and cool off during those hot summer days.
The unique geology of the area has allowed this to be space to be designated as a National Natural Landmark. Take in views of plant and animal species native to this habitat area that are found nowhere else in the Shawnee National Forest. This area is a bird watcher’s paradise because it offers specialized habitats for over 700 species of plants and animals and contains 20% of the species found in Illinois. Come down during migration seasons to see spectacular varieties of woodpecker, phoebes, vireos, and much much more.
Begin on IL-145 and turn East onto Water Tower Road. In about 2 miles, continue onto Ozark Road for another mile. Turn left towards Bell Smith Springs Road and in 0.2 miles, take the first left onto Bell Smith Springs Road. The trailhead is designated by a map of the natural area. Follow the stone steps down into the natural area to explore Southern Illinois nature at it’s finest.