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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
October 13, 2017

“Plan your Chicago fall color weekend with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”


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Here are some highlights to help you plan your fall outings around Chicago:

Though the rain has come, the weather has yet to cool down, and the woods remain mostly green. However, the plants of Chicago’s prairie are the first habitat to exhibit fall’s effects, where the final flowering asters have faded into a tallgrass tapestry of autumn foliage: towering waves of red-stemmed grasses and tawny, fluffy spikes of gayfeather that glow in the sunlight. In one small patch of prairie, you’ll often find more color than any autumn woodland in the region: oranges, golds, reds, maroons, cyans, browns, and tans. Here’s a list of preserves that are worth visiting as they begin changing into their autumn wardrobes:

  • Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois: Walk this hill prairie and the large grassland at its base.
  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: Get a wilderness experience by hiking the trails early in the day when few people visit.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: Walk the wide trails to see the fall colors through the preserve’s various habitats.
  • Lake in the Hills Fen: Visit to experience the fens and the grand prairie expanse of grasses.
  • Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This is a beautiful prairie in September.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: This is another preserve that provides an escape from urban life..
  • Theodore Stone Preserve: Recently, the trails have been greatly improved. It’s a great time to see tall waves of red grasses.
  • Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois: This is a beautiful prairie very close to Chicago’s city limits.
  • Powderhorn Prairie: This is the most biodiverse site within the city limits of Chicago, though the trails are not well established. So be careful.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Visit to experience the towering grasses and venerable bur oaks.
  • Fermilab Prairie in Batavia: Feel small as you walk along wide prairie trails amidst skybound grasses and plants.
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois: Take a nice long walk along the wide trails to experience the changing colors of the prairie and wetlands.
  • Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois: Come for a walk through the grand expanse. Then take in the view from the deck of the prairie house at the north end.
  • Cowles Bog: Immerse yourself in the early-autumn color on the trail that leads to Lake Michigan.
  • Miller Woods: Visit this large black oak savanna for galloping ferns and the variety of colors and textures.



Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog TrailMiller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors. If you’d like to experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.

See a Summer Sunset
Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois is sensational for sunsets.




Big Bluestem Grass and the Tallgrass Prairie

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

Here at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.” Find big bluestem at Belmont PrairieSomme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next several weeks.*


Ferns & Canyon Tours

My favorite part of Hoosier Prairie State Nature Preserve is the trail that winds beneath the black oaks of the savanna. Here, ferns begin to don the colors of autumn.*

In the September savanna at Hoosier Prairie, ferns begin to change color long before the trees.*


At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, acrobatic cinnamon ferns take hold in the soggy ground of Cowles Bog, which is not a bog at all but, rather, a wetland known as a fen.*

At Cowles Bog in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the change to autumn colors begin with the ferns. Here, acrobatic cinnamon ferns take hold in the soggy ground of Cowles Bog, which is not a bog at all but, rather, a wetland known as a fen.*


Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois.

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois. But you can only see it if you sign up for their upcoming canyon tours. Register soon. They fill up quickly.*


Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough

A great blue heron takes flight as the sun sets over Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois

A great blue heron takes flight as the sun sets over Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.


If you’d like to help your neighbors discover national-park quality natural events around town, then become an official scout. Or, you can help by just sending us pictures and a text description from your visit. Another way is to post your pictures to Instagram using these essential hashtags: #ChicagoNatureNow and #NameOfPreserve.

Do you find this website useful? Do you benefit from our many hours of weekly scouting? Then please help keep it going by donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book.



© 2017, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.