Open All Year

*NOTICE: the restrooms located at the pavilion are closed to the public during our summer camp hours. Summer camp starts the last week in June and runs through the first week in August. Campers are present Monday – Friday 9:00am – 3:00pm. During these times, we ask that the public use one of the other seven restrooms located throughout Spencer. The safety & security of the campers in our care are our top priority. Thank you for your understanding!

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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 a mile and a half. 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, rest rooms, 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 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 was home to the annual Autumn Pioneer Festival, which was retired in 2021. Two authentic 1800s Bur Oak cabins are located on the Festival Grounds, as well as a one-room schoolhouse and a blacksmith shop. These buildings are still used for school programs and our annual Holiday Walk in December.

Memorial Woodland
A memorial woodland has been set aside in Spencer Conservation Area. This dedicated space allows friends and family to donate funds in the honor of loved ones. These donated funds will be used to help restore and reestablish a riparian woodland on the banks of the Kishwaukee River. The funds will support invasive plant removal activities and the purchase of native seed that will be planted once the invasive plants have been managed. Memorials can be established to create quarter acre to one-acre native plantings with up to 125 species of native plants.  There have been several memorial plantings established.  Larger scale plantings can also be arranged for those willing to invest more funding.

Qtr. Acre Planting:         $500 Memorial Donation
Half Acre Planting:         $1000 Memorial Donation
One Acre Planting:         $2000 Memorial Donation

::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 savanna 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.


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 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. The grounds around the Center feature several  display gardens. In addition, the area contains historic structures, and is the site of the Autumn Pioneer Festival held the fourth full weekend in September.

::Activities and Facilities

Hiking trail, picnicking, group shelters, accessible facilities, nature center which includes live animal exhibits and interpretive displays, outdoor restrooms, fishing.