Each year, thousands of bicyclists, bird lovers, hikers, equestrians, picnickers, campers and students flock to the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s 22,000 acres of preserves and 127 miles of trails to enjoy the natural world around them.
The District presents a wide variety of programs – many of them free – to educate, entertain and enlighten preserve visitors in all sections of Will County. From spring bird hikes in April to sled dog racing in January, the District highlights many species of flora and fauna as well as wind, water, snow and ice.
Humans aren’t the only visitors the District entices. Five off-leash parks are ready and waiting for dogs whose owners are looking for an opportunity for them to romp and socialize. The dog parks – located in Homer Glen, Joliet, Naperville, Shorewood and Wilmington – are equally appealing to the humans who make new friends and learn more about dog breeds as they watch their canines cavort.
Nestled in the District’s preserves are five unique visitor centers. Isle a la Cache in Romeoville celebrates the 18th century fur trade era, when the “Illinois Country” was home to French voyageurs and native Potawatomi. Plum Creek Nature Center in Beecher hosts many children’s programs and is home to resident reptiles, a working bee hive and an outdoor nature playscape. Monee Reservoir is an angler’s delight with a 46-acre lake and boat and sports gear rentals. Monee Reservoir is just one of 20 fishing spots in the District including Whalon Lake in Naperville, Rock Run Rookery in Joliet and Lake Chaminwood in Minooka. Fishing also is allowed at Lake Renwick Preserve – Turtle Lake Access in Plainfield. But only the magnificent herons, cormorants and egrets get to fish at the nearby Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve.
Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, located where the DuPage, Des Plaines and Kankakee rivers meet to form the Illinois River in Channahon, hosts school groups in the spring and fall and offers facility rentals for banquets, meetings and conferences. The center also provides a picturesque setting for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Four Rivers is a model of green architecture, as is the Sugar Creek Administration Center, which is nestled in Sugar Creek Preserve in Joliet. Sugar Creek features a parking lot for equestrians who ride the 22-mile Wauponsee Glacial Trail, one of three District trails where horseback riding is allowed.
While preserve visitors are exercising, celebrating or simply observing nature, Forest Preserve staffers are busy teaching schoolchildren, restoring land to its native state and planning for the future. For more information on all the District has to offer, visit ReconnectWithNature.org or call (815) 727-8700.