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


Early Spring at Colored Sands Forest Preserve


Seward Bluffs Overlook Provides Spectacular View

On Thursday, October 24th the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District celebrated the completion of the Barbara Mae Atwood overlook in Seward Bluffs Forest Preserve. The overlook is a reconstruction of a previous overlook structure that had fallen into disrepair. In 2012, the Barbara Mae Atwood Foundation donated $50,000 toward this project.

The overlook provides an impressive view of the preserve’s unique geology: the winding Grove Creek flowing through limestone bluffs covered with maple forest. The new overlook was designed to echo the historic character of the 1930’s era stone bridge and picnic shelter in the preserve. The project was constructed in two phases in 2012 and 2013.
Seward Bluffs is one Winnebago County’s oldest and most scenic forest preserves. Its natural beauty and unique geology make it a popular destination for sight-seeing and photography, as well as for fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking and horseback riding.

Walk Off Your Turkey November Nov. 30


Oak Ridge “Through the Back Door” Guided Hike

Saturday, November 30th

10:00 – 11:30 am

Oak Ridge Forest Preserve

Meet at Blackhawk Springs parking lot

5801 Perryville Road, Cherry Valley, IL 61016

Come explore Oak Ridge, one of Winnebago County’s most scenic and diverse preserves. Bring the whole family and all those guests from out of town!

Your guide will be Allen Penticoff who will show you his favorite trails and views within the preserve. Allen is a forest preserve fan and has hiked all 41 preserves! The walk will be in West Oak Ridge FP, but it will start off from the Blackhawk Springs parking lot off Perryville. Hike is moderate: distance about 3 miles.

Wear good walking shoes and bring your field guides, if you like to identify trees and birds.

Holiday Luminary Walk

Silent Lights: Luminary Walk, Refreshments and Song Friday December 6 and Saturday December 7, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Stroll the 2/3 of one mile hard-surfaced trail at Severson Dells Forest Preserve as it is lit up with hundreds of luminaries. There is no fee for walking the trails. Inside the Nature Center enjoy a cup of hot chocolate by the fireplace and music. Call 815-335-2915 for more information. Sponsored in part by Specialty Screw Corporation and Winnebago County Forest Preserve District.
Friday, December 7, 6:30 p.m. Woman’s Song and 7:45 p.m. Kelly Steward

Saturday, December 8, 6:00 p.m. Presentation by author Paul Bogard on “The End of Night Skies” and 7:30 p.m. Casey’s Fancy.
Free to members of “Friends of Severson Dells”; Nonmembers: $5, $20/family max. (If you’re not a current member, you may join that night!)

Land Donation Expands County Line Forest Preserve


Thanks to the generosity of a local citizen, the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District has received a donation of prime conservation land. The recently donated property is 11.29 acres of land along the Kishwaukee River in Cherry Valley, IL. The land is adjacent to County Line Forest Preserve and will be included within its boundary. It is known in Cherry Valley as the “mill race.” It was originally the property Joseph Griggs, Cherry Valley’s first settler, upon which he built a mill, mill race, and dam. The dam was located where the I-90 bridge now is, located and the mill towards U.S. 20.

The forest preserve addition will be preserved and managed as a natural area. It will be a wildlife sanctuary in an area that is highly developed and likely to undergo more development in the future. WCFPD is actively acquiring land along the Kishwaukee River to create a corridor of preserves that will help protect the health of the river, restore critical floodplain habitat for wildlife, and provide land and water recreation trails. Currently, the new property is accessible only by river. Restoration and access work will begin in spring 2014.

In the words of the donor, “the donation of the property to the Forest Preserve District was the right thing to do.” The Forest Preserve District is grateful for this generous donation.


Volunteer Appreciation


This September, thirty-eight volunteers were honored for their service to WCFPD. The diverse group of individuals were recognized a volunteer appreciation picnic which highlighted the contributions of time, talent and expertise. Over 1,000 hours of volunteer activity was logged on WCFPD events and projects in 2013. If you are interested in helping with site stewardship, environmental education events, Eagle Scout projects, guided hikes or special events in the forest preserves, we welcome you to join in helping people discover the nature of life. Contact Jamie Johannsen at to learn about volunteer opportunities.

Preserve Profile: Oak Ridge

by Melissa Cannell

Oak Ridge is a favorite of equestrians, hikers and paddlers because of its appealing mix of woodlands, prairie and waterways. This forest preserve offers seven miles of moderately challenging, yet immensely rewarding hiking trail that continuously dips you in and out of the forest into prairie, marsh, and along the Kishwaukee River. In winter the hiking/equestrian trails can be explored on cross-county skis or snowshoes. Oak Ridge connects to Deer Run and Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserves, forming a larger habitat for wildlife. With this connection of preserves, and a longer trail, chances of seeing animals and birds are very high here! In the wetland areas you can see dozens of jumping frogs, and possibly a Green Heron, Eastern Kingbird, or Great Egret. In the forest you can find deer (or at least their tracks), woodpeckers, and maybe a barred owl. This trail is shared with equestrians, so make sure to have sturdy shoes for a bumpier, sometimes muddy path. The trail is very easy to navigate and well marked. There are about a dozen direction posts, one through eight numbered trail markers, and two trail maps within the forest. Walking at a good pace the trail can be enjoyed in less than three hours.

The wetland part of the trail follows the Kishwaukee River on your left, and a marsh on your right. This is where you will find the most wildlife. Stop and relax by one of the two marked equestrian river crossings into Deer Run Forest Preserve. Listen and watch closely for water birds, and animals coming for a drink. Continuing to walk along the river there will be prairie on your right prolific with giant great angelica flowers about five feet tall. The only bench on the trail is at marker six, a very calm place to watch the prairie, as you hear the river whispering behind you. In May, Oak Ridge boasts a “don’t miss” display of Virginia bluebells that carpet the forest floor in the northern section along the river.