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Mandala Gardens offers pathways of beauty and hidden benches. Find quiet sitting spots, have a chat with our goats, chickens, and ducks, and simply enjoy the day. We have a rainbow variety of heirloom vegetables and potted herbs available for purchase when in season. If you are interested in holding a wedding or reunion or other event here, contact us for fees and dates. We also host senior photos, maternity photos, homecoming and prom photos, etc. for a small fee. The money earned from entrance fees and herbs/vegetable sales is directly invested into growing Mandala Gardens.
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.
Arguably this park has one of the bet views of the Mississippi River from the bluffs nestled in the historic Christian Hill District which is filled with 1800s era architecture. Grab your picnic lunch because the view is incredible from this little park. Fall in love with the view of the river and even say "I Do" under the gazebo for an unforgettable afternoon.
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.
Sand Bluff Bird Observatory
A fascinating opportunity to see a wide variety of migrating birds banded and released. Special events in spring and fall, including the annual BirdFest in early May. Located in the Colored Sands Forest Preserve in the northwestern corner of Winnebago County. Colored Sands, site of original and restored prairies, is one of the most beautiful natural areas in northern Illinois.
Located off historic and scenic Stagecoach Trail. Offers picnic and playground areas, ball diamond, basketball court, bird watching on seven acres. In Waddams Grove.
Riegel Farm & Conservation Center
Riegel Farm has a very diverse group of animal residents. We have exotic birds and reptiles such as an alligator and snakes. Birthday parties, group tours, pony rides and hayrides.
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.
Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve
Nature preserve for bird watching. There are herons and egrets which flourish through the parks and around the lake.
Prairie Ridge State Natural Area
Located southwest of Newton, Prairie Ridge is a wonderful site for observing rare species of grassland wildlife. Over 2500 acres, visitors will enjoy bird watching, nature study, photography and much more.
Experienced birder, knowledgeable about a variety of birding habitats in the Galena/Jo Daviess County Area, offers guided field trips on selected Saturdays. Private trips available by appointment.
Keough Effigy Land & Water Reserve
Explore the past along Keough's hiking trails. Come and see its mining and Native American history.
Wapello Land & Water Reserve
Experience Native American mounds, prairie and the Apple River. Hike beginner trails. Pets welcome. Fishing allowed.
Wards Grove Nature Preserve
Wards Grove is the best “mound forest” remaining in the Driftless Area. 335 protected acres of woodlands with populations of sensitive plant and animal species.
Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve
This nature reserve is the perfect place to bring the family. Hike 450 natural acres, home of nine Illinois endangered or threatened plants and animals. Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve is The Prairie State's 150th nature preserve.
Schurmeier Teaching Forest
Two miles of beginner and intermediate hiking trails, educational signage teaches about tree and forestry practices. This forest is the perfect place to spend the day. Horses welcome!
Emma Mae Leonard Wildlife Sanctuary
Watch Birds, waterfowl and other life in their natural habitat. Recently refurbished wooden docks and trails are a nice addition.
The Busse Woods Trail system is located within Ned Brown Forest Preserve, a 3,700-acre property in the western suburbs of Chicago. There are 11.2 miles of paved trails for cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians. The main loop is nearly 8 miles, circling some lakes and meadows, while a couple of much shorter side loops will take you to the north and south end of the forest preserve. The Busse Woods Trail connects with the Schaumburg Bikeway on the west, and on the north, Busse Woods links to the Rolling Meadows Bikeway system. Some key features of the forest preserve include fishing, boat rentals and a small herd of captive resident elk. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area
This area currently winters nearly 100,000 of the 850,000 Canadian geese that spend the cold-weather months in Illinois. Numerous shallow sloughs and other water areas are scattered throughout its 6,202 acres.
Guests have the opportunity to rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats to explore the rivers and lakes at Kickapoo State Park. Canoe and kayak trips (8 or 13 mile) are offered or rentals can be done by the hour. Following your adventure, guests can grab a bite to eat at the on-site Dockside Cafe which offers live music throughout the summer.
Deer Grove Forest Preserve
Located in Palatine, IL, Deer Grove Forest Preserve has trails that offer a moderate level of difficulty. At almost 10 miles in length, the hiking trials make Deer Grove worth a visit. Split into two very individual sites connected by paved and unpaved trials, the east preserve features open wetlands surrounded by old fields and an in-progress savanna and prairie restoration. The west side is wilder, the forest denser and crisscrossed with footpaths along the rolling terrain. Quite woodlands, white-tailed deer and a completely different experience await the hiker on the west side. Both paths are equally enchanting.
This beautiful Carterville park includes a community center, baseball field, skate park, walking path that surrounds a fishing pond, volleyball courts (sand), playground, pavilion, gazebo, and memorial garden. Ballfields and shelters can be reserved.
Forest Preserve District of Will County
Biking and running trails, bird watching, camping, cross-country skiing, sledding, outdoor ice skating, canoeing and rafting and fishing. The district office provides all information on preserves and issues picnic permits.