Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve is located in southwest Monroe County along Bluff Road just a mile southeast of the small village of Fults, IL. The 500+ acre preserve is home to many unusual plants and animals found in few other locations in Illinois and has a beautiful commanding view of the American Bottoms and Missouri bluffs to the west. It is one of the largest hill prairie complexes in IL and is also a National Natural Landmark.
Kidd Lake Marsh in the bottoms to the west often has ducks, geese, white pelicans, and a variety of wading birds which can be enjoyed from the blufftop, especially with the aid of a pair of binoculars. Hawks, vultures, and eagles are also commonly seen along the bluff edge or soaring over the bottoms.
The nature preserve has a 1.4 mile loop trail with a trailhead at a small rock parking lot just off of Bluff Road on the bluff side. The trail is quite strenuous as it requires a very steep ascent from the parking lot to the top of the bluffs over 200 feet above. Two hundred and twenty-two steps start the south trail loop. That effort gets one about ½ the distance to the “top.” From there, the trail proceeds further skyward on a dirt path. There are several interesting overviews of the bottomlands in this section. Once at the top, one enters a rare native hill prairie natural community with native grasses and wildflowers in season.
From here, the trail is quite flat as it enters the woods and slowly bends northward and eventually west-ward before one leaves the woods and descends through a cascade of woodland, open rocky glades with cedars and prairie habitats, arriving at the bottom in the parking lot where the journey began. The trail can be taken in either direction, using the steps as either the first or last leg of the journey (most people prefer ascending the steps and descending on the dirt path). Estimated walking time is 30-90 minutes, depending on one’s physical abilities and curiosity. Take water. Sturdy shoes and a walking stick may be helpful. There are no developed facilities at this site except for the parking lot and stairs.
The preserve closes at dusk. All trail walkers are required to stay on the trail and not disturb the animals and plants that are found in this special place.