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Interpretive Hikes Sponsored by Parks & Conservation Foundation

The local Parks & Conservation Foundation will be hosting a series of six interpretive hikes at Boone County Conservation Areas. This series of interpretive hikes is open to the public and has been sponsored by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.  Each hike will occur at a different conservation area and feature the unique attributes of that site.  The hikes are an educational and fun way to learn about the natural wonders that occur right here in Boone County.  All trails at these sites are “hiking trails” without an improved surface.  These trails may be snow covered or otherwise challenged on the date of each event, please come prepared to hike according to existing field conditions.

Volunteers with the local Parks & Conservation Foundation will lead these events and provide refreshments.  Each hike will take between one and two hours and will provide participants with a behind the scenes look at the conservation efforts, unique habitats, wildlife, or glacial geologic features.

When & Where:

  1. The Interpretive Hike series will start on Saturday, January 6th, at the Ballard Farm Conservation Area located at 7431 Shaw Road west of Belvidere. The program starts at 1:00 p.m.  This hike features a peak at the behind the scenes conservation work occurring at the site.  Learn about how and why native plant materials are so important and what challenges conservationists in their work to maintain and restore high quality habitat.
  2. The Second and Third Hikes will occur on Saturday, February 3rd, 2018.
    • An interpretive of the Ipsen Road Conservation Area will begin at 3:00 p.m. from the parking lot located at 1078 Ipsen Road. This site consists of a unique blend of habitats.  Take some steps with our volunteer guide to learn how this conservation area provides a wide range of what conservation professionals describe as ecosystem services.  Many conservation areas not only provide habitat for wildlife, and recreational opportunities for the folks living nearby, but these areas also provide the physical space to store water from runoff during and after storm events or spring snowmelt.  This is important because water stored on the landscape of a conservation area is naturally suited to do this. Having areas like this helps minimize flood impacts elsewhere in the community.
    • After concluding an afternoon hike, hungry participants are invited to have enjoy some refreshments. New arrivals interested in taking the evening owl hoot hike are also invited to have a treat before they step off across the terrain with ears tuned to listen for the call of an owl.  Of course, anyone wanting to hike both the afternoon and evening events are welcome to do so!
    • An interpretive hike of the Newburg Village Conservation Area will begin at 5:00 p.m. and will also start at the Ipsen Road Conservation Area parking lot. This hike will expand on the information shared in the earlier event.  The Newburg Village Conservation Area includes several different habitats – each attracting a fairly long list of different kinds of birds.  Our evening hike will feature owls.  Although February may seem like the wrong time of year to talk about birds, with the right habitat, many birds can still be observed.  This is a great location to learn how even subtle changes in habitat can affect wildlife – especially birds!
  3. The Fourth Interpretive Hike will start at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 10th at the Kishwaukee Valley Conservation Area addressed at 9416 U.S. Highway 20, Garden Prairie, Illinois. Your volunteer guide will provide a tour along the edge of the Kishwaukee River.  Here participants will see how the river shapes the landscape.  As you hike, you might get wet feet, so knee high waterproof boots are strongly recommended!  Unique plants and animals have become adapted to the ebb and flow of the water through the valley that glacial meltwaters raced through nearly 10,000 years ago.  The Kishwaukee now flows through the same valley, but its channel is much smaller.
  4. The Fifth and Sixth interpretive hikes will happen on Saturday, March 24th at the Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area. The Fifth Hike starts at 10:00 a.m. and the Sixth Hike begins at 1:00 p.m. – there is a box lunch intermission between the two events. These hikes will cover a lot of ground, so we have divided the site into two separate events.
    • The Fifth Hike explores the original land acquired to create the Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area. Addressed at 8605 Norris Lane, Capron, Illinois, where we will gather at the parking lot to begin the hike.  A total of 80-acres was purchased from two different landowners at the same time – a very interesting story on its own.  This site contains one of the richest assemblages of native plants known to occur in all-of Northern Illinois.  More than 108 plant species, all packed into a wet area that is known as a fen.  A spring visit is the perfect opportunity to observe this site.  We hope the weather is cooperative, but – in northern Illinois, who knows – it might snow, it might rain, it might…!  Come prepared for the weather!
    • Intermittent lunch!! Those that came for the morning hike can have lunch and, if desired, stay for the afternoon event and add to your daily steps!  Others interested in hiking just in the afternoon can come for lunch before they hike.  Either way, lunch is provided.
    • Our Sixth Hike is the grand finale! A few years after purchasing the original Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area, three additional landowners offered an additional 97-acres (two 40-acre parcels and one 17-acre parcel) to expand the conservation area.  This annex of conservation land includes several very high-quality habitat restoration areas and protects the original remnants of a diverse woodland/wetland complex.  During your hike you will see the beauty of early spring wildflowers, stand under the stout crowns of a grove (actually – it is called a savanna) of towering burr oaks and shag bark hickory.  See why skunk cabbage, whose flower blooms in late February or early March, is so aptly named!  Ask questions and learn how you can become involved as a conservation district volunteer! Everyone is sure to enjoy learning of the unique methods used to restore native habitat.  Hey! How do they know what to plant where, and why not plant some other trees or flowers there?  A lot to learn in an hour or so!
  5. RSVP for each event by calling: (815) 547-5711
  6. For more information contact: Dan Kane – dkane@bccdil.org

Please come out and join our volunteers as they guide you across the prairies, wetlands, shrublands and other habitats being managed and conserved in Boone County, Illinois.  And, please take time to thank the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for graciously funding these events and investing so strongly in these important conservation lands!