Late summer great for exploring suburban forest preserves

By Erika Wurst For Chronicle Media

There is still plenty of summer time left for kayaking at lakes at forest preserves such as Wood Dale Grove in Addison and Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. (Photo courtesy of DuPage Co. Forest District)

Summer break is winding down, but that doesn’t mean the outdoor fun has to stop for families.

Local forest preserve officials are encouraging families to get out and about before the little ones are cooped-up in class for the school year.
From twilight strolls to archery open houses and camping adventures, there’s no shortage of activities being hosted throughout Kane, Kendall and DuPage counties.
“With busy summer schedules and sports practices, it’s kind of therapeutic to go out in the woods and slow life down a little bit,” said Josh Libman, a naturalist with the Kane County Forest Preserve. “We always fill our calendar with a slew of programs for everyone from little tikes to senior strollers. It’s been a busy and fun summer for sure.”
There is more of that to come. There are a variety of activities happening at the Kane Preserves throughout August that promise to be fun for the whole family.
On Aug. 8 from 7-9 p.m., kids in grades 3-6 can enjoy the woods at twilight during this unique event. A naturalist will lead a night-hike and the evening will end with a campfire.
“It gives you an interesting sneak peek into the preserve,” Libman said. “When the sun sets, the gates close and there’s no public access to the parks. But, when you’re hiking with a naturalist you get that nighttime look. You see the animal day shift turn into the animal night shit. Raccoons are on the prowl and bats fly about.”
A family fun night, to be held on Aug. 18 from 7:30-9 p.m., is designed to “break-up the daily routine that families with young kids have.” It’s an event Libman is especially excited about, he said.
“Come out and shake things up with us a bit,” he said. “Stroll through the woods then enjoy a craft and some popcorn and a movie while spending an evening outdoors.”

Baker Woods in Kendall County offers a diverse woodland to explore. (Photo courtesy of Kendall Co. Forest District)

Kendall County Forest Preserve Communication’s Director Rebecca Antrim is just as excited to get families out enjoying Kendall’s accommodations before classes get underway.
It’s important to start even the youngest of children on a path to understand nature, Antrim said.
“We want to start them out young,” she said. “When you get them to come out early they start to understand why it’s so important to preserve the areas we have.”
Several programs are still scheduled for little ones throughout August, including a Babes in the Woods program held on Aug. 18 for children ages 4-6.
Antrim also pointed to Hoover Outdoor Educational Center in Yorkville as a family favorite.
Families can camp or stay in one of the preserve’s bunkhouses. They can hike and enjoy time spent on the river.
“We’ve seen an increase in attendance in the preserves this summer,” Antrim said. “There have been a lot of picnics and overnight rentals.”
DuPage County families also have their fair share of fun to be had at the local preserves, according to Audra Bonnet, acting director of communications and marketing for the DuPage Forest Preserve.
Bonnet touted that “a forest preserve is no further than five minutes away from any home or business in DuPage County.”
“That close proximity allow some flexibility in your schedules,” she noted.
Like in Kane County, DuPage also offers some evening strolls, perfect for families who have busy daytime schedules.

Twilight hikes at local forest preserves can be a fun summer learning experience for all ages. (Photo courtesy of Kane Co. Forest District)

On Aug. 3, at Kline Creek Park, families can enjoy the park from 5-8 p.m. and soak up the sunset while spending time together.
“Dusk can be one of the prettiest time, with all the golden light,” Bonnet said. “It’s also convenient for moms and dads who work during the day. They can still get that family time at the preserve and don’t have to plan forward to do it. Just pack a picnic, spread a blanket on the lawn and enjoy time together.”
If adventure is your thing, an archery open house is where you might want to be.
On Aug. 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., families can head to Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville for an archery open house.
Instructors will be on hand and equipment will be provided. There is no registration and the event is entirely free or charge.

The Hoover Outdoor Educational Center in Yorkville is a family favorite and provides a variety of programs all year round. It is also a top place for hikers in the Kendall County region. (Photo courtesy of Kendall Co. Forest District)

“The Blackwell archery range is a longtime favorite of outdoor enthusiasts and has picked up a new generation of fans after movies like ‘Brave’ and ‘Wonder Woman,’” said Forest Preserve District of DuPage County President Joe Cantore.
So pick a day, or evening, and make it a point to enjoy everything Kane, Kendall and DuPage counties have to offer.

Learn more about regional forest preserves programs