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Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve by Jessica Morris

Entrance on 5390 Rotary Road, Cherry Valley, IL

The Spring Ephemerals Are Here!

Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve is 227 acres of forest that juts right up to the Kishwaukee River. Be prepared to walk to the trails, unless you take the initial equestrian trail, since parking is right off the road with about a half mile walk up a paved road that eventually leads to the walking trails. Even walking up said paved road is a joy since it is surrounded on either side by Maple and Oak dominated woodlands, and is also an excellent place to spy Black Cherry Trees, with their signature dark, flakey bark.

Any time of year is a good time to take a hike here but during spring, if you time it just right, you can get a peek at several spring ephemerals beginning to show their blooms. The walk up the paved road boasts numerous clusters of White-Trout Lilies (Erythronium albidum) that were perfectly in bloom. My boyfriend, dog and I hiked the equestrian/pedestrian trail (but look out for the “presents” left by the horses!) and saw many treasures. The dryer hillsides were practically covered with clusters of Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) and soon to be blooming Red Trillium (Trillium recurvatum). We also spied some May Apples (Podophyllum peltatum) by their umbrella-like leaves, even though they were not yet in bloom.

We took the shorter hike down to the river, just to take in the view. Being springtime, the Kishwaukee looked rather high and was moving swiftly, but we were safe on the shore. The sound of the rushing water perfectly complimented the sounds of the busy wildlife, such as Cardinals and Chickadees chirping while Woodpeckers are noisily busy about their tasks. Our trip entailed a few surprises by the river, the first being a snake, and the second a coyote skeleton! Even though we had been to this preserve before, it just goes to show that you never know what to expect and every experience is unique.