Laona Heights Sugar River Colored Sands Sugar River Two Rivers Ferguson Hartley Memorial Trask Bridge Four Lakes Pecatonica River Pecatonica Wetlands Crooked River Grove Creek Seward Bluffs Klehm Forest Preserve Severson Dells Fuller Memorial Cedar Cliff Indian Hill Hinchliff Memorial Kilbuck Bluffs Trailside Kishwaukee Gorge South Kishwaukee Gorge North Rockford Rotary Kishwaukee River Oak Ridge Blackhawk Springs Deer Run Espenscheid Memorial McKiski County Line Kieselburg Roland Olson Stone Bridge Clayton Andrews Ledges Hononegah J. Norman Jensen Millrace Isle Macktown Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve Headquarters

Plants & Animals


Winnebago County Plant Communities

Winnebago County is home to diverse ecosystems including tall-grass prairie, short grass prairie, wetland, oak-hickory savanna, and woodland. Historically, this county’s vegetative cover was primarily vast prairies and wetlands that were essentially treeless plains.

The  Forest Preserves of Winnebago County contain a variety of plant communities, from shrub swamps, to wet mesic upland forests. The broad range of habitat types support over 1500 species of native plants. Of these plants, over 200 are currently listed by the Illinois State government as being either threatened, or endangered.

Learn about Forest Preserves of Winnebago County Plant Communities here.


Why Are Threatened, Rare, and Endangered Plants Important?

Plants are an important part of the ecosystem not only for humans, but to a variety of other species as well.  While protecting rare plants, we are also protecting the organisms that depend on those plants. These may be anything from insects or herbivorous animals such as rabbits, deer, or even mice that need the seeds of the flower of a particular species to live.

What is the  Forest Preserves of Winnebago County Doing to Protect Threatened, Rare, and Endangered Plants?

The protection of rare plant populations depend on conservationists and land stewards. As values in land use shift these populations suffer and their survival becomes entrusted to our care. The delicate nature and fate of these organisms rests within our willingness and capacity to propagate, nurture, monitor and protect these plants. Forest Preserves of Winnebago County’s ecological restoration and stewardship programs focus heavily on restoring and protecting the diversity and health of native plant communities in the preserves. Each year staff and volunteers propagate and plant thousands of wetland, woodland and prairie plants in new and existing natural areas. The work of collecting seed, propagating seedlings, planting, clearing out invasives and burning for rejuvenation never ends. The challenge is to stay one step ahead of the many degradation threats that constantly lurk at every preserve boundary.

Native Plants

Complete list of Forest Preserves of Winnebago County Plant List


Wildlife viewing opportunities are a major attraction for visitors to the forest preserves year-round. Forest Preserves of Winnebago County restores land and resources to support maximum diversity of native animals, birds and insects, and monitors and manages problem populations to achieve a healthy ecosystem balance. (download or view complete Wildlife List)

Thank you to Forest Preserve District of DuPage County for sharing wildlife information.

Arachnids and Crustaceans

Arachnids and crustaceans are members of the largest category of creatures on the planet: arthropods. Arthropods have hard, external shells called “exoskeletons,” segmented bodies and jointed legs. (The word arthropod comes from the Greek words for “joint” and “foot.”) A wide variety of arthropods call Winnebago County home.


Winnebago County’s four rivers, prairies, wetlands, and woodlands are magnets for migrating and nesting birds. Over 320 species of birds have been documented here.


Roughly 20 different game fish live in Winnebago County ponds and rivers.


Bees and butterflies are two of the most important groups of pollinating insects in northern Illinois. Some bats and birds (such as hummingbirds) perform pollination, too.


Humans have impacted the mammals of Winnebago County in many ways. Historically, there were many species of large mammals that no longer exist here today. Changes in land use and habitat destruction have caused the extinction of most of this area’s large mammals.


Next to arthropods (insects, arachnids, crustaceans, etc.) mollusks are the largest group of animals in the world. Mollusks have soft bodies, which are usually enclosed in thin, hard shells made of calcium.

Reptiles & Amphibians

You know them as frogs, toads, snakes, turtles and lizards. Winnebago County has 21 species of reptiles, and 15 species of amphibians.