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Spencer Conservation Area


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Once known as the “old fairgrounds”, this 353.72 acre site is bordered by the Kishwaukee River on the south for almost half a mile.  Located along the western edge of Belvidere, the conservation area is designated as a high use area.  Developments include an access road, five parking areas, sanitary facilities, two baseball playing fields, shelters for small group gatherings as well as shelter and facilities for large, organized activities.  River and pond fishing are offered for visitors, as well as hiking and cross country ski trails extending throughout the area for 3 ½ miles.

Festival Grounds
This area is arguably the most heavily used site of all the conservation areas.  The Festival Grounds is home to the annual Autumn Pioneer Festival in September.  Two authentic 1800s burr oak cabins are located on the Festival Grounds, as well as cultural heritage gardens, representing the many ethnicities that first arrived in northern Boone County.

::Getting There

Spencer Conservation Area is located on Appleton Road in the city of Belvidere, between North State Street and West Lincoln Avenue. The main entrance is located by St. James Cemetery. This accesses the pavilions, both pond and river fishing opportunities, and recreation paths. The North entrance accesses the Nature Center, historic area, and more recreation paths. Additional information is available at either location.

::Natural Considerations

Spencer Park lies on the banks of the Kishwaukee River. The low lands adjacent to the river are dominated by silver maple, sycamore, and willow trees, which are species adapted to withstand seasonal flooding. Low areas are dotted with wetlands, which actually are a former section of the river channel that was cut off from the main flow many years ago. A shallow wetland remains providing ideal habitat for aquatic species. Species of birds, including waterfowl and wading birds frequent the marsh. Out of the flood plain are the oak savannah forests which prefer better drainage. The forest is dominated by hardwoods including red and white oak, hackberry, and hickory trees. Deer, squirrel, and songbirds frequent these areas where they forage on nuts and berries. Raptors too, are likely here because the large trees provide nest sites and high vantage points for hunting.

::History

Because of its location along a river, Spencer Park has a history rich in human activity. For several thousand years, the Kishwaukee River was used by the Native Americans to transport goods for trade. In conjunction with this route, the conservation area is known to have been a campsite used during nomadic visits. In more recent history, a portion of the park was the site of the Boone County Fairgrounds.

::Opportunities for Fun

This area is Boone County Conservation District’s most developed, and offers a variety of recreational opportunities. For this seeking a connection with nature, the area hosts over 3 miles of trails which wind through diverse habitats providing wildlife viewing opportunity. For the angler, the conservation area has ponds stocked with fish and over a mile of river frontage. Check signs for size and creel limits. Picnic shelters and ball fields are available for reservation.

The Nature Center contains a variety of educational displays and plays host to many of the District sponsored educational programs. It is open week days and select weekends. The grounds around the Center harbor several interpretive gardens. In addition, the area contains historic structures, an interpretive trail, and is the site of the Autumn Pioneer Festival held the fourth weekend in September.

::Activities and Facilities

Hiking trail, cross country skiing, interpretive trail, picnicking, group shelter, accessible facilities, nature center, historic exhibit, outdoor restrooms, fishing, interpretive exhibit.