Riverwood Forest Preserve is the newest natural area under the care of DeKalb County, Illinois. Born from a “2020 acquisition and land preservation and grant partnership with the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation”, Riverwood is a conservation work in progress. It is already showing spectacular results.
The former Oak Club Golf Course is 103 acres but feels much larger. With several miles of paths, some former golf cart roads, the oddly shaped preserve provides a nice range of habitats. Most noticeable, at least in early August when I first visited, is the prairie restoration. Huge swaths of beautiful wildflowers spread out like a blanket, a mix of yellows, purples and reds that contrast sharply against the former golf greens.
Interesting, the morning I visited I was unsuccessful of finding a single butterfly, although there were quite a few bees visiting the blooms. I tried to hike the majority of the trails, and traversed the other two main habitats: oak savanna and riparian.
The Kishwaukee River and some wetland areas provide a nice contrast from the heat of the prairie, and there are several large trees sprinkled here and there. The oak savanna habitat is part of the ongoing conservation project and I found a few newly planted Bur Oaks amongst the restoration.
This variety of habitat provided quite a nice list of birds (over twenty species) including a tree full of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, a Baltimore Oriole, and a Gray Catbird. Later on I spotted an Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird, and Eastern Phoebe.
Around practically every corner was another beautiful view and a handful of active birds. It was a smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and smells that made me feel like I was in the middle of nowhere, despite nearby “golf course houses”.
Perhaps my favorite prairie plant, the Rattlesnake Master (below) took me awhile to find but thankfully my perseverance paid off.
The trails connect to another DeKalb County Forest Preserve, Knute Olson Jr. This former gravel quarry is a 26 acre mix of floodplain forest and an upland forest. It provides an additional opportunity to find more birds, and further hiking. This preserve has direct access to the Kishwaukee River.
All the trails are wide and easy to travel. A few are rather steep, providing for some energetic hiking. The leftover hilly former golf tees provide excellent panoramic views.
My future plans are to visit Riverwood Forest Preserve often. It is only around 10 minutes from home and it has the potential to provide a lot of interesting sightings. I already am looking forward to returning.
For those outside of the area, there is no fee, ample parking, and the preserve is open sunrise to sunset.