Chicago Nature Now! Alert &
Fall Color Report
November 3, 2017
“Plan your Chicago fall-color weekend with Chicago nature news & info
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”
Fall-color highlights to help you plan your fall outing around Chicago:
This is a crazy year where it seems like each individual tree is doing its own thing. Depending the preserve location and the species of tree, my overall estimate of peak fall color is currently at 70 to 100 percent. My definition of peak color means “a maximum color mix,” which often includes a little green. That’s because, if you wait for the green to go away, most of the leaves are already on the ground. The plants of Chicago’s prairies are also exhibiting fall’s effects, with 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: The trail is closed as they construct a new boardwalk. 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.
Here are examples of fall color in Chicago’s preserves from previous years. Get out there, and discover what this fall brings:
* 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.
© 2017, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.