Apple River Canyon State Park: Illinois.

Apple-River-Canyon-SP_web

In hilly northern Illinois, the park offers hiking, day use, camping and fishing, plus Millville, a National Historic Register site.

Apple River Canyon State Park is in the hilly northwest corner of Illinois near the Wisconsin border. Limestone bluffs, deep ravines, springs, streams and wildlife characterize this area. Once a part of a vast sea bottom that stretched from the Alleghenies to the Rockies, the scenic canyon area was formed by the action of the winding waters of the Apple River.

The park was established by the State of Illinois in 1932, and today consisting of 1,907 acres. Several other sites within Jo Daviess County are managed as part of the Apple River Canyon State Park Complex: Thompson and Salem Units, Iris and Jack Witkowsky Wildlife Area, Tapley Woods Natural Area, Hanover Bluff Natural Area, Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve, Wards Grove Nature Preserve, McKeague Unit Nature Preserve, Rall Woods Natural Area, and Apple River Canyon – Winston Tunnel Unit.

Shawnee National Forest – Illinois

Water pool with rock cliffs and heavily forested area surrounding it

Clear, rocky streams and scenic canyons bordered by high sandstone cliffs and plants unique to Illinois. The trail consists of seven miles of interconnected trails, featuring strange and wonderful rock formations, such as Devil’s Backbone, Boulder Falls and a natural rock bridge.

Aerial view of river with rock cliffs and shrubs surrounding it

Looking for solitude?  Wilderness areas are some of the largest contiguous forested lands within the Shawnee, and together they make up about 10 percent of the national forest.

Rocky waterfall

This place has it all – majestic bluffs, a lush bottomland habitat, colorful cliffs and expansive views of the Big Muddy and Mississippi rivers. If you like to watch birds, this spot is haven for neotropical migratory songbirds during the spring and fall.

Scenic view from trail looking out at meadow and trees from a rock pinnacle

Majestic views await you at Inspiration Point, a National Recreation Trail, located at LaRue Pine Hills. With more than 170 bird species, it is a birders’ paradise. In the spring, the trail is bordered with wildflowers — blazing star, bellwort, bluets and spiderwort.

Natural bridge

Check out this rocky bridge, which spans 90 feet, while you’re visiting the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Located just minutes off Highway 127, it takes less than an hour to hike.

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/shawnee

Moraine Hills State Park – Illinois

Moraine Hills derives its name from a geologic formation known as a moraine, which is an accumulation of boulders, stones and other debris deposited by a glacier. As glacial ice melted here following the Wisconsin glaciation period, it left gravel-rich deposits called kames that make up the park’s wooded hills and ridges.

From fishing to hiking and biking – from lush habitat and rare plants to watching a wealth of wildlife – Moraine Hills State Park is home to a recreational bounty in northeast Illinois. Located 3 miles south of McHenry in McHenry County, the park is located near the Fox River and McHenry Dam, with about half of the park’s 2,200 acres composed of wetlands and lakes.

In 1939, the State of Illinois made the initial McHenry Dam State Park land acquisition of 15 acres on the east bank of the Fox River. Major acquisition of the Lake Defiance area began in 1971, and construction of park facilities took place in the spring of 1975. The present Moraine Hills State Park opened in October 1976.​ The park name is derived from a geologic formation known as a moraine, which is an accumulation of boulders, stones and other debris deposited by a glacier.

The 48-acre Lake Defiance, located near the center of the park, is one of the few glacial lakes in Illinois that has remained largely undeveloped, maintaining a near-natural condition.

The waters and wetlands of Moraine Hills are home to abundant wildlife; more than 200 species of birds have been identified at the park.  Fishing is available on both Lake Defiance and on the Fox River. The McHenry Dam area provides access to the Fox River, and a fishing pier accessible.  More than 10 miles of trails make Moraine Hills popular for hikers, skiers and cyclists, and provide one of the park’s main recreation features.

 

https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Parks/Pages/MoraineHills.aspx

Love of the Lens – On Location

Daniel Wright Woods  – Lake County,  Illinois

While March generally isn’t the best of weather anywhere in the midwest, today showed us sunny skies and 50 degrees.  With the warmer weather, the melted snow leaves for slushy, muddy trials and the Des Plaines River closer then we want (literally cutting off many of the paths) at the Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve. But nonetheless a very enjoyable experience.

This peaceful oasis among the bustling suburbs offers 4 miles of scenic trails: a short loop for hikers, bicyclists and skiers that circles a pond, and a 3-mile loop for hikers, bicyclists, skiers and horses.

A footbridge spanning the Des Plaines River (assuming the path to get to it is not flooded like today) links Wright Woods to Half Day Forest Preserve. Together they offer some of southern Lake County’s most scenic outdoor recreation opportunities and the Des Plaines River Trail passes through both preserves.

A Little History?

Wright Woods was named for one of Lake County’s first settlers, Captain Daniel Wright. In the early 1960s, these acres were some of the first acquired. In 2004, the 168-acre Lloyd’s Woods addition to Wright Woods expanded the preserve to its current 750 acres.

It provides the opportunity to see the powerful effects of water and fire. Prior to settlement by Europeans, wildfires regularly swept eastward across Lake County, only to be stopped by the Des Plaines River. Situated just east of the river, Wright Woods supports a rich oak and maple woodland that sometimes develops in less frequently burned areas. With large stands of maples found at few other places in Lake County, Wright Woods is a great place to view autumn colors.

 

For more information and location, visit https://www.lcfpd.org/wright-woods/

Shawnee National Forest – Illinois

The Shawnee National Forest at approximately 280,000 acres is the single largest publicly owned body of land in the state of Illinois. It is located in the Ozark and Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois.  There are many miles of diverse hiking and backpacking trails including the 160-mile River to River Trail. In the southern tip of Illinois lies the rolling Shawnee Hills where 289,000 acres await you to relax, unwind and explore.   Here you will find vast forests, wetlands and rugged bluffs home to a variety of plants and animals. The natural beauty of the area is ideal for all types of outdoor recreation.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee

Map of Shawnee National Forest

  • Phone: (618) 253-7114
  • Address: 50 Highway 145 S, Harrisburg, IL 62946

Love of the Lens – On Location

The Volo Bog – Illinois

Summer or winter – the Volo Bog is a place for discovery.  Located in Northeast Illinois, the bog sports a half mile walk on a boardwalk (similar to a pier) and an approximately three-mile trail with views of the tamarck forests.

After the end of the last Ice Age, a chuck of retreating glacial ice lodged itself deep in the ground at what is now Volo Bog. Several thousand years later the remnant lake began to fill with salt and vegetation, creating the wetlands present today.  The Volo Bog is technically known as a quaking bog because vegetation floats atop the open water….that is in the spring, summer and fall.  The boardwalks you see here, take you directly over the frozen wetlands which are very near where you are stepping. 

For more information, visit https://openlands.org/2018/06/05/have-you-discovered-volo-bog/

 

Garden of the Gods

Shawnee National Forest is a Midwest destination unlike any other. Traverse 403 miles of hiking trails, discover local wineries and craft breweries, and don’t miss the Garden of the Gods.

images (1)

n southern Illinois, fields give way to forested hills, rugged bluffs and sweet surprises in Shawnee National Forest.

Outdoor enthusiasts make tracks to Giant City State Park, which gets its name from the steep, carved sandstone cliffs that resemble city streets fit for a giant. Hikers explore miles of trails or gather their gear and tackle rock-climbing and rappelling on the massive bluffs. Giant City Stables leads guided horseback tours along wooded paths. The clear and calm waters of Little Grassy Lake, part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, are ideal for a day of fishing and boating. For a colorful detour, the quirky Makanda Boardwalk showcases the works of local artisans, including metalwork and gemstone jewelry.

Head for the Forest