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Great River Road in Illinois National Scenic Byway
Explore the heart of America! Follow the Mississippi River as it winds its way along Illinois' western border from Galena to Cairo. Experience over 550 miles of small towns, big cities, historic sites, recreational areas, cultural attractions and museums. Follow the green and white paddle wheel signs as they guide your next adventure!
Sugar Grove Nature Center
Sugar Grove Nature Center is located in beautiful, historic Funks Grove among over 1,000 acres of forest and prairie. Funks Grove is the largest remaining intact prairie grove in the state of Illinois and is a designated National Natural Landmark. Visitors will enjoy interpretive exhibits, live animals and a wildlife viewing room as well as access to 5 miles of hiking trails. The Imagination Grove Nature Play Area welcomes children to explore, tromp in the creek, climb a tree, ride a zip line and more. A picnic shelter, astronomy observatory, blacksmith forge, corn crib prairie lookout, variety of gardens and many other features help to make Sugar Grove Nature Center a beautiful and unique place. Visit the website to learn more about special events and programs.
McCully Heritage Project
The McCully Heritage Project is a natural area made up of 940 acres of hills and hollows in Calhoun County, Illinois. The project offers 15 miles of hiking and horse back riding trails, two ponds for fishing and turtle watching, a wetland with a boardwalk, a hill prairie plot and more. Hiking is pleasant even in the summer as the wooded trails provide plenty of shade. Facilities are available for group activities, large and small. The focus of the McCully Heritage Project is upon cultural and environmental enjoyment, education, and preservation. The general public is welcome to hike, picnic, bird watch, and enjoy the natural beauty of the site. The McCully Heritage Project is located about 1 mile south of Kampsville, Illinois, off of Illinois Route 100. Take Crawford Creek Road west about 1/2 mile to MHP.
The Nature Institute
The Nature Institute is a non-profit land conservation and environmental education organization based in Godfrey, IL. Since its founding in 1980, The Nature Institute's board and staff have worked to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world through preservation, restoration, and education. The Nature Institute also owns and manages over 450 acres of protected land, such as the Olin Nature Preserve, the Mississippi Sanctuary, the Kemp and Cora Hutchinson Bird Sanctuary, and the Heartland Prairie Project at Gordon Moore Park. These natural areas provide unique places for the public to experience the diversity of the Riverbend area with its hardwood forests, prairies and wetlands. The preserves are open to the public and free to use from dawn to dusk.
Tuttys Crossing Trailhead
Tutty’s Crossing Trailhead provides easy access to the Jane Addams Trail and to the Pecatonica Prairie Trail (under development). It is located on the banks of the Pecatonica River. A bridge, part of the Pecatonica Prairie Trail, crosses the river and provides scenic views. The Trailhead provides parking, a boat ramp, and walking area. Future planned developments include a shelter/restroom, fishing/observation pier, picnic tables, and floating dock. Open: Dawn to Dusk
Jane Addams Trail
This multi-use 17 mile trail offers beautiful scenery and 22 bridges, including a covered bridge in Orangeville, passing wetlands, creeks, woods, prairies, geologic formations and farmland. The trail, named after Jane Addams, the Nobel Peace Prize humanitarian and Hull House settlement founder born and raised in nearby Cedarville, is part of the Grand Illinois Trail which traverses northern Illinois from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. The 13 miles of the trail is a crushed limestone surface which may be used by hikers, bicyclists, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers. Trail maps are available.
Big Rock Forest
This forest preserve has miles of wooded trails and a quarry lake suitable for hiking and horseback. Fishing, canoeing and kayaking permitted in season.
Forest Park is a municipal park with the Chautauqua Auditorium, Vietnam Memorial, Family Aquatic Center, picnic areas, pavilions, baseball & softball diamonds, fishing lagoon (Crystal Lake), skateboard park, soccer fields, a youth athletic center, and more. There is an entrance to the General Dacey trail at the back of the park and the Memorial Sunken Gardens have been revitalized. The park is also home to the Festival of Lights.
Loyola University Retreat & Ecology Center
Encompassed in 100 acres of lush greenery, Loyola University's Retreat and Ecology Campus provides a serene setting for overnight retreats, meetings, team building, classes, and private/community events. Open year-round, the campus can accommodate groups of 12-200 guests. Facility highlights include one of the largest challenge courses in the state, culinary team building, farm workshops, comfortable housing/meeting spaces, sustainable dining options, a fire pit, basketball/ tennis courts, and hiking trails. Loyola is committed to maintaining the biodiversity of the campus and encourages sustainability, conservation, and restoration efforts.
Red Oak Nature Center
Nestled on the east bank of the Fox River, the Red Oak Nature Center is surrounded by 40 acres of lush forest and wildlife habitat – an ideal setting for visitors to learn about the great outdoors through direct interaction with nature. Free admission includes: Wildlife Room, Bee Room, Discovery Room, Devil's Cave, Observation Deck, Picnic Shelter and six wood-chip hiking trails. Open year-round. Red Oak Nature Center offers snowshoe rentals during regular operating hours from December to March when snow cover accumulates at least 3 inches on the ground.
Trails for bird watchers and nature lovers; 200 acres.
Willowhaven Interpretive Center
Whispering Willows Park at Willowhaven Interpretive Center features open prairies, wetlands, interpretive gardens and 1.5 miles of limestone trails surrounding two scenic ponds. All trails begin and end at the Willowhaven Interpretive Center scenic outlook.
Franklin Creek State Natural Area
Developed by local volunteers, it offers scenic trails, horseback riding, fishing, and limited hunting. The site contains the historic Franklin Creek Grist Mill and a 180-acre dedicated nature preserve.
Paris City Bluebird Trail
Visit these scattered sites to witness the return of the bluebird to Illinois. The trail and Sycamore Golf Club are two links in the Transcontinental Bluebird Trail.
Sand Creek Conservation Area
Sand Creek is a 755-acre open space site located just south of Decatur off South Franklin Street. Hike the trails to the bluff overlooking Sand Creek for panoramic view of the countryside. Over 7.5 total miles with varying difficulty. Open to hikers & horseback riders.
Black Hawk Park
The city of Paris operates this property on Twin Lakes. Wander the trails to see plants and animals that live in the woods, on marshy land and on the lake. Special nesting boxes have brough bluebirds to the meadows.
Dodds Park offers picnic and playground areas, flower gardens, three shelter houses, concession stand, two lighted tennis courts, volleyball and basketball courts, two lighted ball diamonds, horseshoe pits, batting cages and two shuffleboard courts.
Large, wooded park offers 43 acres of timber, grassland & bottomland with picnic and playground areas, hiking trails, cross-country skiing, fishing, and a small boat launch on Yellow Creek
Prehistoric dwellers left their marks on the rock walls. Petroglyphs depict animals, humans, geometric figures, and crosses.
Red Oak Nature Center
A visit to the center will help folks learn about the native plants and animals of the Fox River Valley. Interpretive center, hiking trails, and tours of Devil's Cave.
Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy
Private natural area owned by the Nature Conservancy. Highlights are 1500 acres of prairie, wetlands, and savanna woodlands. Grassland flowers, birds and butterflies to observe.
Washington County State Recreational Area
The 248-acre Washington County Lake offers wildlife viewing, fishing and hiking, as well as 900 surrounding acres for hunting. The natural area also has picnic and camping sites.
Irons Oaks Enviromental Center
Call for details
Stephenson-Black Hawk Trail
This scenic 13-mile trail for hiking and biking through the rolling hill of northwest Illinois offers both history and nature. The trail, as it follows county and township roads, is partially paved. Attractions include early pioneer sites, one of the highest natural points in the state, and also Blackhawk war sites. Trail maps are available at the Lena Community Park District Office. For those who complete the trail, trail patches and medals are available for purchase.