Earth Day (April 22) presents the perfect opportunity to escape the daily grind and reconnect with nature. Embrace the peaceful serenity and outdoor adventure possibilities at The Nature Conservancy's free preserves and hiking trails throughout Illinois. Once you experience the acres of preserved prairies and bountiful wetlands, you'll want to explore all year long.
Hiking and wildlife viewing aren't the only things to do at the more than 6,000 acres of the Emiquon Preserve — there's plenty for water enthusiasts as well, including boating and fishing for bowfin, channel catfish, largemouth bass and more at this jewel of Central Illinois. Lake access permits and liability waivers for Emiquon Preserve are required and available at Dickson Mounds Museum.
The Spunky Bottoms thriving wetland landscape is open from sunrise to sunset for the peaceful viewing of rare plants, wildlife and some of the more than 16,000 waterfowl migrate through the area. Watch your step as you stroll through the preserve, as Spunky Bottoms has one of the most abundant populations of northern cricket frogs in Illinois.
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Hike through the first national tallgrass prairie in the nation at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, operated by the U.S. Forest Service. Nearly 33 miles of trails are open to the public for dog walking, biking, picnicking and more. It is the largest open space in the Chicago metropolitan area and has more than 230 bird species.
Nachusa Grasslands Content
From spring to early summer, spot the new baby bison at Nachusa Grasslands, where from April through June bison are born in this sprawling area. Seven hundred native plant species and 180 species of birds also call this area home.
Kankakee Sands offers rich habitat for birds and small animals. Unspoiled sand dunes and swales stretch as far as the eye can see. You’ll spot several state-listed plant species, including the crowned-oval sedge, once thought to be extinct in Illinois.
Cache River Wetlands
Enjoy birding, mushroom hunting, canoeing and kayaking at the Cache River Wetlands. Seeming to belong more to Louisiana than Illinois, visitors can see 1,000-year-old cypress trees with gnarled branches outstretched above the black waters of the tupelo swamps.
Indian Boundary Prairies
Indian Boundary Prairies is a cluster of four prairie sites that are home to butterflies, reptiles, birds and more than 250 plant species. Visitors are welcome to hike and enjoy the unique natural beauty of each site.