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Understanding Our Nature Preserve Selections

ChicagoNatureNOW! Alerts provide information about great things happening in our featured preserves. However, there may be other noteworthy natural events happening at other sites, too, and we don’t want you to miss them. Therefore, I’ll occasionally promote happenings at preserves that are not officially featured here.

Our Featured Preserves Are Showcase Preserves

There are more than six hundred natural areas within the Chicago region. And I encourage you to visit them. After all, our region is home to more protected natural area than thirty-six of the sixty-three national parks and home to more than 1,700 native plant species, greater than ANY national park! Unfortunately, many of our preserves have been attacked by more than two hundred weedy invaders from other regions and continents, leaving behind just a handful of local species there. These sites appear messy, overgrown, unbalanced, and lack animal activity. On the other hand, ChicagoNatureNOW! presents what I think are the best-of-the-best preserves that richly celebrate the natural history and world-class beauty and biodiversity of the place we call home. These high-quality preserves are open, bright, colorful, and full of life.

Our showcase preserves celebrate Chicago’s true nature, both literally and figuratively. We feature indigenous plants and habitats —not the plants from Europe, Asia, and elsewhere that often invade and destroy our native populations.

I’ve chosen ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves as showcases for Chicago nature, just as the national parks are the showcases for the natural beauty of  America. Not only are our showcase preserves both beautiful and biodiverse, they also provide a getaway and a sweet retreat from urban life.

For the purposes of this website, I defined the boundaries of the Chicago (and ChicagoNatureNOW!) region roughly in keeping with the borders established in 1999 for the Chicago Wilderness region. It is an area formed by glaciers that receded about 13,000 years ago and is defined by its unique geology and habitats that extends around Lake Michigan from southeast Wisconsin into northwest Indiana. Similarly, the ChicagoNatureNOW! region spans the following area: Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, McHenry,  and Will, the Indiana counties of Lake and Porter, and Chiwaukee Prairie that resides in Wisconsin on the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

Over my many years photographing for Chicago Wilderness magazine, I have fallen in love with a special smattering of sites that are not only exceptional in terms native biological diversity, but they are especially beautiful and provide an escape from urban life. They’ve stolen my heart, and my hope is that they’ll steal yours, as well.

As the battle to remove the invaders continues, and ecological restoration breathes new life and beauty into an increasing number of degraded sites, I will continue to explore and to add more high-quality nature preserves to this website. (See Frequently Asked Questions for how we go about adding a showcase preserve to this website.)


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