Sand Ridge State Forest
|Sand Ridge State Forest|
IUCN category VI (protected area with sustainable use of natural resources)
|Location||Mason County, Illinois, USA|
|Nearest city||Forest City, Illinois|
|Area||7,200 acres (2,900 ha)|
|Governing body||Illinois Department of Natural Resources|
Sand Ridge State Forest is a conservation area located in the U.S. state of Illinois. Containing 7,200 acres (2,900 ha), it is the largest state forest in Illinois. It is located in northern Mason County. The nearest town is Manito, Illinois and the nearest numbered highway is U.S. Highway 136. It is located on a low bluff, or "sand ridge", overlooking the Illinois River, hence the name. The sand ridge is believed to be an artifact of the post-glacial Kankakee Torrent.
The Sand Ridge State Forest largely dates back to 1939, when the state of Illinois purchased parcels of submarginal sandy farmland for conservation purposes. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted pine trees on much of the land. Today, the 7,200-acre (2,900 ha) state forest contains 3,916 acres (1,585 ha) of dryland oak-hickory woodlands, 2,492 acres (1,008 ha) of pine woodlands, and 792 acres (321 ha) of open fields and sand prairies. Endemic species include the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia, more familiar to Mexicans and residents of the U.S. Southwest.
In the 2010s, Sand Ridge is managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) as open space for active recreational purposes, especially whitetail deer hunting. Revis Hill Prairie, also located within Mason County, is operated by IDNR as a disjunct area of Sand Ridge State Forest.
In early 2012, Sand Ridge State Forest lost about 100 acres (40 ha) to a fire caused by a man burning brush in high winds which sparked the trees.
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