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Hike Kilbuck Bluffs Forest Preserve

Kilbuck Bluffs Forest Preserve
3061 & 3020 South Bend Road, Rockford, IL 61109
1.5 miles of mowed and dirt trails

Kilbuck Forest Preserve is one of the oldest in Winnebago County, the original tract purchased in 1924. Throughout the 1930’s and 40’s Kilbuck Bluffs was an immensely popular spot for wading and picnicking during the summer months, regularly attracting crowds of hundreds. It remained a favorite spot for wading, swimming and fishing in Kilbuck Creek through the 1950’s. Today, Kilbuck’s wildflowers, birds, prime fishing and historic beauty are its allure. In early spring the ground here becomes covered with spring beauties. The white and pink streaked flowers light up the flats.

This 224.3-acre preserve consists of two parts along South Bend Road. The west portion has a road that loops around in the floodplain of Kilbuck Creek. Very large cottonwood, oak and other trees cover the area creating an ideal spot for bank fishing the creek. This small picturesque stream offers catfish at its mouth and upstream in the deeper slow pools. Smallmouth are common in the rocky pool riffle areas. Redhorse, suckers, and a variety of minnows abound in Kilbuck Creek.

Across the road and high atop a hill is the east portion of Kilbuck Bluffs Forest Preserve. This is the part that gives the name to the preserve. Kilbuck Creek flows rapidly along the bluff just to the south. The loop roadway leads around through hardwood forest, a prairie area, and a grove of pine trees planted in the 1950’s.

If you are visiting this side of the forest preserve in the spring check out the flowers of the forest floor. You’ll want to step carefully among the beds of May apple, bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, and cutleaf toothwort. Return a couple weeks later to a flood of blue Virginia bluebells covering the floor of the forest. The displays of ephemeral flowers make Kilbuck “a must” for spring hikes. 1.5 miles of hiking trails make a nice tour of the creek, bluff, prairie and woods.

Along with the flowers and early insects, come the migrant birds. Looking over the edge of the bluff, into the branches of eye-level trees, brings the bird life very close. Kilbuck is a great spot to find birds during spring migration. Woodland birds from thrushes, tanagers, woodpeckers, vireos, and warblers are common.

Click here for a printable Kilbuck Bluffs trail map.