West of DuQuoin and south of Steeleville on the Randolph-Jackson County line is a unique 198-acre area known as Piney Creek Ravine State Natural Area. Purchased in 1972 for its rare plant species and other natural features, it is one of only two locations in the state where short-leaf pines grow naturally. Piney Creek Ravine is dedicated nature preserve within the Illinois State Nature Preserve system.
A hiking trail that winds along the top of a bluff overlooking the creek crosses scenic Piney Creek. The trail is especially beautiful in the autumn when fall colors abound, and also in the winter, when the leafless trees allow unconstricted viewing into the ravine below.
Plants at Piney Creek Ravine are more typically northern in distribution, as well as Ozarkian southern species. Differing habitat types also contribute to the general diversity of Piney Creek Ravine. Communities range from dry, exposed bluff associations, dominated by post oak, blackjack oak and American agave, to moist ravine forests with splendid spring wildflowers and sandy stream banks with a variety of moisture-loving plants, such as sedges, smartweeds and scouring rushes.