Horses still reign at Danada Forest Preserve
But Wheaton's Danada Forest Preserve is also home to wildlife, wetlands and trails
Stroll the grounds of the 797-acre Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton and you can be excused if you feel like you've been transported to Kentucky horse country.
It's no accident, really.
The preserve is the former home of Daniel and Ada Rice (Dan-Ada, get it?). The couple purchased the land in 1928 and, in 1943, Dan bought eight thoroughbreds to help fuel his wife's love of horse racing.
It turned out OK for them because they raised 1965 Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair on the grounds. (For horse-racing trivia buffs, jockey Willie Shoemaker was aboard for the winning ride.)
The Rices patterned their 26-stall barn in the style of stables in Lexington, Kentucky.
And horses still reign here. Visit the grounds along Naperville Road between Butterfield Road and I-88 and you're bound to see them grazing in the many pastures or being exercised. You can even stroll through the barn and see them resting in their stables.
But Danada, operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, also offers much more. There's a large wetland (keep an eye out for egrets and blue herons) and a 35-acre restored prairie (yes, you might spot a deer or coyote). There's even a woodland you can hike through.
There are nearly three miles of trails in the preserve -- expect to share them with folks on horseback and bicycles -- spots to fish and even more spots to picnic.
Also on the grounds is the 19-room Danada House. Once the Rice residence, the house now is available for parties, receptions, corporate events and more.
But the centerpiece of the preserve remains the Danada Equestrian Center, which offers riding lessons, group tours and a bunch of camp experiences.
It remains a place where horses live and people come to visit.
For more on Danada, and all DuPage forest preserves, visit dupageforest.org.