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updated: 8/26/2011 3:06 PM

Tour Sterne's Fen or Wingate Prairie on Sunday hikes

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Submitted by Environmental Defenders of McHenry County

If you are looking for a weekend opportunity to enjoy a local natural area hike, the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County are planning two tours in Crystal Lake Sunday, Aug. 28.

A tour of Sterne's Fen, a dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve that provides habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species, begins at 12:30 p.m. Learn more about this rare and beautiful fen wetland and its special groundwater-dependent ecosystem with knowledgeable expert and tour leader Steve Byers of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

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From Walkup Road in Crystal Lake, take Hillside Road east. In a little over half a mile, look for a sign labeled "Sterne's Woods and Fen" on the south side of the road. Turn right/south and follow the road to the parking lot. The tour will begin near the building at the end of the parking lot.

A tour of another nearby Illinois Nature Preserve, Wingate Prairie, will follow the Sterne's Fen tour. Wingate Prairie is 39 acres of extremely rare gravel hill prairie. Only 59 acres of this type of prairie are known to still exist within Illinois. During its active months from spring to fall, the prairie displays different blooms every week.

Enjoy a summer stroll with guide and Site Steward Jim Wigman and learn firsthand about the unique beauty of this prairie land. Meet at Crystal Lake Park District Nature Center, 330 N. Main St., Crystal Lake. The tour begins at the entrance to the Nature Center at 2 p.m.

For more information on these natural areas, visit www.crystallakeparks.org.

Tours are sponsored by the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County and are free and open to the public. Hiking shoes, long pants, and bug repellent are recommended. The hikes will require moderate activity level.

This program is part of a current watershed planning effort to help protect water quality and watershed health in the Silver Creek and Sleepy Hollow Creek watersheds in southeastern McHenry County. A watershed is an area of land that drains water into a common receiving body such as a stream. Sterne's Fen and Wingate Prairie are within the Sleepy Hollow Creek Watershed. These watersheds are part of the larger Fox River Basin.

Watershed planning activities are funded by Section 604(b) of the Clean Water Act by way of a grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Water, to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. To learn more, visit foxriverecosystem.org/planning.htm.

The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County is a citizen-based, nonprofit organization, dedicated to the preservation and improvement of our natural environment. For information about programs and membership, visit www.mcdef.org or email to mcdef@owc.net.

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