20 things you might not know about the Lake County Forest Preserves

Having lived in Lake County for pretty much my entire life, I visit the forest preserves often, and thought I knew a lot about them. I am finding there is so much I did not know.

For example, I learned a three-rail split wood fence is found at the main entrance of most of the preserves. Now as I drive around, I spot the fences and know I am approaching forest preserve property. This is just what the fences are designed to do.

There are so many other interesting facts and figures about the forest preserves. Here are a few:

• Lake County Forest Preserves manages 30,876 acres of natural lands and 204 miles of trails. There are 65 current sites, including the Libertyville general office, two stormwater management facilities and a community garden.

• The forest preserves have 480 miles of boundary.

• The forest preserve's first acquisition was 3 acres on March 1, 1961, at Van Patten Woods near Wadsworth. The most recent acquisition was 0.2 acres on Jan. 15, 2019, at Fourth Lake Forest Preserve near Lake Villa.

• The district operates three golf courses: Brae Loch near Grayslake, Countryside near Mundelein and ThunderHawk near Beach Park.

• At 2,835 acres, Lakewood near Wauconda is the district's largest preserve. It is home to 24 threatened and endangered species. On the west side of the preserve is the 70-acre Wauconda Bog. The Community Garden Site near Waukegan is the smallest site at 0.08 acres.

• There are 57 drinking fountains throughout the preserves.

• The highest natural elevation in Lake County is found within Gander Mountain Forest Preserve near Antioch. The 301-acre preserve features a 125-foot hill that is the result of deposits left from the retreating glaciers at the end of the Ice Age.

• During flood conditions, many of the Lake County Forest Preserves, especially wetlands, store and filter millions of gallons of stormwater. The forest preserve owns 10,262 floodplain acres.

• The district operates the nationally accredited Dunn Museum, a distinction held by only 3 percent of American museums. Other area accredited museums include the Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Science & Industry.

• The Dunn Museum preserves the county's history by caring for more than 20,000 objects and 1,000 linear feet of archival material.

• Forest preserve educators present programs to more than 20,000 schoolchildren each year.

• There are 173 bridges and boardwalks throughout the preserves. And there are approximately 6,000 signs.

• The Greenbelt Forest Preserve near North Chicago is split by Green Bay Road. The preserve sits atop the sub-continental divide, marked by that road. Rain falling on the east side of Green Bay heads for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but rain falling on the west side heads for the Gulf of Mexico.

• The 355-acre Duck Farm Forest Preserve near Lake Villa is appropriately named after a duck farm operated by its last private owner. At one time, more than 50,000 ducks resided on the farm.

• There are three trails that are paved and plowed in the winter. They are at Independence Grove, Hastings Lake near Lake Villa and Old School near Mettawa.

• There are four dog exercise areas and a new one on the way at Waukegan Savanna Forest Preserve. Existing parks are at Prairie Wolf near Lake Forest, Independence Grove, Lakewood and Duck Farm.

• The Forest Preserve Ranger Police have 19 full-time officers, 19 part-time officers and will be hiring about six additional part-timers. The officers are state certified and have the authority to make arrests and write citations anywhere in Lake County. However, their primary focus is protecting the forest preserves' visitors and property as well as educating the public.

• The oldest artifact at Dunn Museum is a large fossil rock that is 420 million years old. It was found in Lindenhurst in 1957 during excavation for a home being built.

• The Adlai E. Stevenson Historic Home near Mettawa was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 2014. The designation was in honor of 20th Century statesman Adlai E. Stevenson II, who played a major role in the Cold War. The grounds are open year-round as with any Lake County Forest Preserve. The house is available for tours.

• There are 11 accessible fishing piers. There are six locations where you can launch a canoe to paddle along the Des Plaines River. And car-top boat launches are found at Hastings Lake, Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods and Long Lake at Grant Woods near Ingleside. There is a full-service boat launch with rentable boat slips at Fox River near Port Barrington.

Kim Mikus is a communications specialist for the Lake County Forest Preserves. She writes a bimonthly column about various aspects of the preserves. Contact her with ideas or questions at Connect with the Lake County Forest Preserves on social media @LCFPD.

There are 173 bridges and boardwalks throughout the Lake County Forest Preserves, like this one at Hastings Lake near Lake Villa. Courtesy of Tim Elliott
The Forest Preserves operate the nationally accredited Dunn Museum in Libertyville. Courtesy of John Weinstein Photography
The Lake County Forest Preserves manages 30,876 acres of natural lands and 204 miles of trails. Courtesy of Jeff Goldberg
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