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


Youth do Conservation Work in Forest Preserves


WCFPD is cooperating this summer with the Progressive West Rockford Community Development Corp to provide summer jobs to teens through the Rockford United Diversion Project. PWRCDC received a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to hire at risk young people to do conservation work. Project Coordinator Larry Sowell, says PWRCDC’s role is to recruit, assign and pay the teens, while WCFPD provides the work opportunities, facilities and materials to carry out the job assignments. A team of eight youth will be working under two supervisors to carry out trail maintenance, pruning, trimming and garbage pick-up in various preserve throughout July and August. Sowell explains that the summer project achieves two important goals which benefit our community.” This program benefits our local youth by giving them gainful employment during summer break, but more importantly it is providing them with job experience and skills that will make them more employable in the future.” The additional help with keeping the forest preserve facilities clean and attractive is icing on the cake!

Get Away to Campgrounds and Enjoy Guided Nature Hikes


It’s the ideal time of year to relax and connect with nature at one of the forest preserve district’s four campgrounds: Hononegah, Sugar River, Seward Bluffs and Pecatonica River. Some of the river-side primitive camp sites at Sugar River may be closed due to flooding, but Pecatonica River is an excellent alternative. Enjoy the quiet, tall pines and winding forest trails at Pec River campground. Electricity is currently unavailable at Pecatonica River, however it is an ideal site for a classic tent or pop-up camping get away.


Learn about our rich natural communities and wildlife by joining guided hikes at each campground. These programs are intended for all ages and anybody can attend, camping that weekend or not. It promises to be a fun time. Plus there is rumor that the yo-yo master will be performing while people are gathering to start the program, so come early! Call 815-335-2915 for meeting spot.


Learn from our Roving Naturalist at one of these educational programs:


Owl Prowls (start time 7:30pm)


Friday, July 12, Hononegah Forest Preserve


Saturday, July 13, Seward Bluff Forest Preserve Saturday,


July 27, Hononegah Forest Preserve



Campground Walkarounds (start time 9:30am)


Saturday, July 13, Pecatonica River Forest Preserve


Saturday, July 27, Pecatonica River Forest Preserve


Saturday, August 17, Sugar River Forest


See our camping web page for more information.


Summer Events: Savor Long Luxurious Days Outdoors!



Bumble Bees in Your Backyard presented by Barbara Williams

Saturday, July 20, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30-ish

At Severson Dells Nature Center

Our native pollinators are an important part of our landscapes. They pollinate our crops as well as the plants that provide food for other wildlife. They reflect the health of the environment which directly affects us. Northern Illinois has lots of different species of native pollinators but many of them are declining. This program will acquaint you with some of our bees and show you how to give them some help and a place in your garden. Free. Call to register. 1-815-335-2915.


Music at the Dells: Chastity Brown; Barbara Jean

Saturday, July 20, Doors at 6:00 p.m., show at 7:00 p.m.

at Severson Dells Nature Center

Tickets: $15

Chastity Brown: Chastity was recently hailed by NPR as a “promising new voice” and her live act was chosen by CMT as one of the Top 10 Moments of the 2012 Americana Festival.

Barbara Jean: Barbara Jean is one of the most exciting new roots music talents to come out of Minnesota in some time. Her new record, The Great Escape has earned her an appearance on the nationally renowned Mountain Stage radio. Call 1-815-335-2915 to reserve a seat!


The Yarn Bombing Begins     

at Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden       

Opening Saturday, July 20, 2013

Presentation Knit in Public 12pm to 2pm

This summer Klehm’s entrance and Nancy Olson Children’s Garden will be covered in color and patterns by local knitting clubs and enthusiasts.  As a living museum Klehm is proud to offer an outdoor exhibit which will bring a new form of art and visual delight to the Rockford area.  The exhibit debuts July 20 with a “Knit in Public” presentation by the many groups and knitters who contribute to its success. Exhibit Begins July 20 and Continues While the Art Lasts. Cost: Included with Admission.


Raising Monarchs

Thursday, July 25, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Severson Dells Nature Center

Join retired golden apple teacher Rich Toppe as he guides us through this program on raising monarchs.

Learn how, where and why we collect monarch eggs. Listen to ways to care for the caterpillars and finally how to release the adults. Learn what you can do to help monarchs by joining us for a fun-filled evening. Rich will share stories of his successes and failures and what we can learn from them. He will demonstrate the inexpensive equipment that one needs to complete the life cycle of the monarch. Call for reservations. 1-815-335-2915


“Beautiful Bugs and Butterflies” – Critter Day

Saturday, August 3, 9:30 a.m. -11:00 a.m.

At Severson Dells Nature Center

Join us as we explore the amazing life cycles of butterflies and other incredible insects including ladybugs, lightning bugs and giant moths. We offer a treasure chest of knowledge and amazing transformations, plus tips on how to hand-raise your own beautiful butterflies at home. Stunning photography by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards is combined with expert information and live insects to create an up-close and personal tour of the hidden lives of backyard critters. Surprising, captivating and perfect for all nature lovers from the curious to the serious. Program free, ages 8-adult, children must be accompanied by an adult. Call to register, limited seating! 1-815-335-2915.


Common Ground – Wood Song Concert               

Sunday, August 11, 2013

 Gates open 4pm, Concert starts at 6pm

Sit back and relax with a glass of wine as you enjoy an open-air concert in Klehm’s magnificent Fountain Garden. Bring a chair, pillow or blanket and a picnic dinner. Free guest shuttle service to and from the parking lot is provided at no charge. Doors open at 4:00pm so you have plenty of time to explore the gardens and grounds before the concert starts. There will be food and drinks available for purchase. Concerts are held rain or shine.

Common Ground is a funky dance band covering hits from the 50’s through today. This group has an array of vocal talent to offer an eclectic variety of music. They cover artists like Adele, Santana, Bill Withers, Bob Marley, Joe Cocker, Stevie Wonder and Maroon 5 with a unique funky flair. Cost: $10 per person / $5 members / Kids 12+under  FREE. To purchase tickets for this concert, visit


Adult Peek Into Creek

Saturday, August 10

9:00 am-noon

Severson Dells Nature Center

Adults Only!

Are you tired of hearing from your kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews how much fun they are having at the peek-into-creek camps?  Dive into the ecology of stream life; whet your appetite and wet your feet. Take part in the A, B, Sees (appreciation, biology and silliness) of this watery world.

We will explore the creek located at Severson Dells Forest Preserve.  The camp will be led by a professional staff. (Maximum number of campers is 20.) The camp will include the legendary creek slosh through the dells in the beautiful Hall Creek of Severson Dells. The slosh is of moderate difficulty.

$5 for non-member.  FREE to members.  Please call to register, or for more information: 1-815-335-2915.

Wouldn't You Rather be Golfing?



Be cool with a $25 combo special!

Includes 18-hole greens fee and golf car rental

Monday-Thursday anytime.

Three great golf courses to choose from:

Atwood  815-623-2411

The Ledges  815-389-0979

Macktown  815-624-7410

Enjoy your golf experience at the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District golf courses!

Preserve Profile: Kishwaukee Gorge (north)

by Melissa Cannell

While visiting the variety of natural communities at the Kishwaukee Gorge North forest preserve you may forget you are still in Winnebago County!  This preserve is home to a restored prairie, deep forest with large, statuesque, twisted oak trees, and steep sided gorges leading down to a peaceful opening on the Kishwaukee River.  Throughout spring and summer trees and bushes are in bloom, and the grounds are covered in vibrantly colored wildflowers.  The entrance is located just west of I-39 on Blackhawk Rd.  From Blackhawk Rd take Pathfinder Rd south.  Immediately there is an information booth with a trail map.  Drive past the booth until the road ends in a parking area.  The open area around the lot is shaded, with five picnic tables, outhouse, and a water pump.

The preserve holds about two miles of relatively easy hiking trail consisting of mowed grass around the prairie, and a rather rugged dirt path in the forest.  The trail becomes a bit challenging when climbing down and up the fifty or so steep, man-made steps along the side of the gorge that lead to its bottom, and the Kishwaukee River.  It is easy to lose yourself for a couple hours exploring on the trail to take in all the diverse scenery at the preserve.


The trail is basically one big horseshoe, with a few side paths.  From the lot take the path on the left (east) to enter the trail, the prairie will be on your right.  Less than a quarter mile down there will be a path on your right.  The path to the right takes you around the prairie, and back to the parking area.  To hike into the forest and gorge, continue on the path straight ahead which forms a big horseshoe.  You will encounter three forks off this main path.  Staying to the right at each fork will keep you on the main path.  The meandering left side paths do not go very far.  The views at the end of each are well worth the travel.  The first one goes over a small bridge, and ends at a breathtaking view at the top of the gorge where you can see the other side of the gorge, and the almost vertical, layered rock walls.  There is no railing here, and the drop off is about forty feet tall and very steep, so go only as close your nerves allow you!  The second goes to a high up fenced lookout over the gorge.  Sit down on the bench here and relax up in the tops of the trees with the birds, the river just visible deep down through the thick forestry.  The final one leads to manmade steps and a lookout with the clearest view of the gorge.  See how the layered rock sides of the gorge are so slanted they look as though they could slide off one by one into the creek that trickles down the crevice of the gorge. Following the steps all the way down from the lookout leads to the bottom of the gorge, and a wide opening on the Kishwaukee River.  Make sure to take a look around the gorge and relax by the calming water before heading back up the steps.  After visiting each of the spectacular views and the river follow the horseshoe out of the forest back to the prairie, and out into the parking area.  Also, the small path around the prairie has a couple of benches great for relaxing and watching for wildlife before you leave the preserve.


There is an abundance of interesting life you will see in the North Kishwaukee Gorge forest preserve.  Many wildflowers inhabit the forest floor like columbine, prairie trillium, shooting stars, and Virginia bluebells.  The steep, hard, rock walls of the gorge are softened by luscious leafy ferns that grow on the layered rock.


The prairie is full of staghorn sumac plant, a large shrub with elegant branches like deer antlers, and large red fruits.  The prairie here was restored by the WCFPD, restoring Illinois prairies is a very important aspect of work for WCFPD.  Staghorn sumac is a helpful plant in prairie rehabilitation.  It grows large, and quickly, and puts nutrients in the soil that other plants need for growth.


Eye-catching, little, iridescent green beetles, called dogbane leaf beetles, inhabit the prairie and can be seen on the path.  These beetles eat the leaves of dogbane prairie plant, also known as dogbane hemp.  The fibers from this plant were once used by Indians to make hemp cord, and ropes that could withstand up to several hundred pounds of pressure.


Goldenrod is another interesting plant in the prairie.  These tall plants are home to goldenrod gall flies, which spend an entire year developing inside a funny ball shaped pocket in the stem of the plant.  Seeing a small hole in the gall is the sign of a predator woodpecker, whereas a totally destroyed gall is the sign of a chickadee feeding on the larvae.

Visiting the Kishwaukee Gorge North forest preserve will excite your senses with all its different environments and wildlife.  Come relax by the prairie and Kishwaukee River, hike through the wildflower covered woods, and experience the breathtaking views of the deep gorge!



Species Spotlight:Side Oats Grama (Sideways Grass)

One of the prettiest local native grass species is sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). Its name describes the oat-like seeds that hang uniformly, lined up on one side of the slender, zig-zag stem. In late summer, look at the flowers through a magnifying glass. The plant’s reproductive organs — bright red anthers and feathery, white stigmas — will blow your mind. Sideoats grama is a dominant grass of dry hilltop prairies. It tolerates extreme heat. Scientists say the range of sideoats grama expanded during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. In Winnebago County, it can be found in most prairie restoration areas.It is an important forage species in the mixed-grass prairie. Wild Turkey eat the seeds.