Winter is associated with migration, hibernation, changes in animal behavior, plants becoming dormant, and humans experiencing special health concerns ranging from hypothermia to seasonal depression. Winter even invokes its own special vocabularies to describe the conditions (e.g. black ice, whiteouts, and corn snow). Descriptions of winter camping depend on geographic location, opportunities to go camping […]
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.
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.
The Natural Scene
Captain Daniel Wright Woods 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.
In spring, the bridge between Half Day and Wright Woods is a popular place to spot migrating songbirds like the yellow-throated warbler or Baltimore oriole. Later in the summer, look for nesting field birds in the restored prairie. Eastern bluebirds, tree swallows and red-tailed hawks are commonly seen here.
This peaceful oasis offers 4 miles of scenic trails.
Starved Rock in Illinois
Hike along a winter canyon backdrop!
Starved Rock State Park is situated along the south bank of the Illinois River, less than 100 miles from Chicago. This beautiful park attracted over 2 million visitors last year to explore its scenic trails and canyons, dine in its historic Lodge and enjoy the panoramic views from tall bluffs which offer a unique contrast to the flatlands of Illinois. A hike to the top of a sandstone butte or a peaceful stroll to explore any of the 18 canyons gives each visitor a memorable experience. The backdrop for hiking is 18 canyons formed by glacial melt-water and stream erosion. They slice dramatically through tree-covered, sandstone bluffs for four miles at Starved Rock State Park.
But how did Starved Rock get its name? The park derives its name from a Native American legend. In the 1760s, Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe, was attending a tribal council meeting. At this council of the Illinois and the Pottawatomie, Kinebo, the head chief of the Illinois tribe stabbed Chief Pontiac. Vengeance arose in Pontiac’s followers. A great battle started. The Illinois, fearing death, took refuge on the great rock. After many days, the remaining Illinois died of starvation giving this historic park its name – Starved Rock.
The Wauponsee Glacial Trail
The 275-acre Wauponsee Glacial Trail was acquired between 2004 and 2016.
Prior to the District’s acquisition of the land, it was two abandoned railroads: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific from Joliet to Manhattan and the Wabash/Norfolk Southern from Manhattan to Custer Park.
The Wauponsee Glacial Trail is a 22.42-mile paved/crushed limestone linear trail consisting of two segments.
The northern segment of the trail travels 2.80 miles from Sugar Creek Preserve north to Rowell Avenue in Joliet. This flat, paved segment of the trail travels through woodland, prairie and wetland.
The southern segment of the trail extends an additional 19.62 miles from Sugar Creek Preserve south to the Kankakee River. This flat, crushed limestone segment of the trail travels through prairie. It is ideal for the following activities:
You will cross bridges and you might even see some wild turkeys…
The once Historic Route 66, of the most famous roads in the United States that ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and ended in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California, covered a total of 2,448 miles. It has always been iconic for roadside stops….dinners…antiquing…and many historical sites. Although it longer exists, you can still “get your kicks” on the path it took through the United States on other highways and roads. In this series, I will highlight the many places you can stop to explore nature along this route….focusing on spots in the Midwest. Looking for more stops….check out this guide.