The Nature Institute – Illinois

The Nature Institute manages 5 nature areas around Godfrey, Illinois. We decided to check out two of these areas on a beautiful fall day. Just outside the busy town of Godfrey lies the John M. Olin Nature Preserve. The property contains a beautiful lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a “natural” playground and miles of trails.

Photo Oct 25, 9 46 14 AM

We started our hike from the parking lot and came upon the towers at the Skeet Area.

Photo Oct 25, 9 58 58 AM Photo Oct 25, 9 56 43 AM

There is also a nice overlook of the Mississippi River.

Photo Oct 25, 9 57 43 AM

One thing I really liked about this place was that all of the trails were signed very well and easy to navigate. We continued along the Orange Trail to place marked “Monument” on the map. A plaque tells how from 1790 to 1863 the picturesque Hop Hollow was an entry point on the Underground Railroad. Sympathetic landowners helped hundreds of slaves try to reach freedom.

Photo Oct 25, 10 07 24 AM Photo Oct 25, 10 11 04 AM

We then took the Green Trail which follows the creek. There are several sets of small falls along the creek.

Photo Oct 25, 10 26 53 AM Photo Oct 25, 10 29 07 AM

When you come to a junction in the trail with the trail marker below, be sure to take the trail to the right to see Beaver Falls.

Photo Oct 25, 10 44 25 AM

While the falls were just a trickle while we were there, the creek opens up to a large rocky outcropping. The creek was low enough that we could hike back to the falls and stand beneath them.

Photo Oct 25, 10 35 12 AM Photo Oct 25, 10 39 50 AM

This is by far the best feature on these trails so be sure to check it out. We headed back towards the lodge, taking in all of the fall beauty. Our total hike was about 3.25 miles.

Next, we decided to hike some trails at the Mississippi Sanctuary. From the Olin Preserve, just walk past the playground and down the road to a gated drive. Just after the gate, there is a trail to your right. The trails here are not signed well at all. We knew we wanted to check out the Creek Trek Waterfall, so we just headed in the general direction of the falls. I loved this waterfall! The creek drops several times to create a picturesque waterfall. This one was unique since over time, the water has etched the rocks into layers.

Photo Oct 25, 11 50 31 AM Photo Oct 25, 11 52 15 AM

We continued along the trail and my friend even spotted some deer! We headed toward the river since on the map there was an icon for an overlook. Every time I drive the Great River Road, I look up and say “I want to stand on those bluffs”. Wish granted! The trail is steep and narrow, but once you reach the top an overlook awaits. A small clearing on top of the bluff allows you to sit and take in the view. Just beneath you in the Great River Road.

Photo Oct 25, 12 02 32 PM Photo Oct 25, 12 03 41 PM Photo Oct 25, 12 05 13 PM^ Finally standing on the bluffs above the Great River Road ^

We followed a trail back to the road and walked back to the gate. This hike added about 2 miles onto our hike, but I am so glad we hiked this area.

Photo Oct 25, 12 12 28 PM

Photo Oct 25, 12 18 24 PM

As a reminder, dogs are not allowed at the Nature Institute properties. Even though my pup couldn’t join me, I loved this area. I had no idea that this beautiful preserve was so close. If you are looking for more hiking in the area, be sure to check out Pere Marquette State Park.

Photo Oct 25, 12 23 32 PM (1)

Trail Map

Categories: The Nature InstituteTags: , , , , , ,


  1. Great hike and not too far from home!!


  2. Beautiful pictures!! Love the fall scenery & I don’t like fall!!


  3. Great pics! Thanks for sharing!!


  4. Awesome!!! See you tomorrow……….


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