An exciting discovery was made of the Showy Orchis while on the Wildflower Walkabout in 2017 at Howard D. Colman Dells Nature Preserve. Photo: Jill Kennay

Co-Sponsored by: Natural Land Institute and Severson Dells Nature Center

SDNC: 815/335-2915, NLI: 815/964-6666

All walks begin at 6:00 p.m.  Free to attend. Membership in either or both organizations is encouraged. Registration Requested: 

Come experience the north central Illinois landscape. Walk where flowers carpet the forest floor and birds fill the air. Severson Dells Nature Center and the Natural Land Institute are the organizing agencies of the event, with local groups providing leaders from their organizations.

During the ten weeks of Wildflower Walkabouts, with one per week, alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you will get the chance to see public parks and preserves, as well as private natural areas in a three county region (Boone, Ogle, and Winnebago), owned by Natural Land Institute, Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, Rockford Park District, Boone County Conservation District and Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Thank you to the agencies and volunteer tour guides for their support.

Full Schedule Below:

Tuesday, April 24      Anna Page Park

Local naturalist, Barbara Williams, will lead our walk to find spring ephemeral wildflowers at this Rockford Park District property. We will mosey along an unpaved path through hardwood forest along the banks of Kent Creek. Depending upon the weather and the progress of the spring, we may see marsh marigolds, trilliums, Dutchman’s breeches, Virginia bluebells, skunk cabbage, hepatica and numerous other spring wildflowers.  Moderate hiking, possibly with muddy areas.  We will meet at the large parking lot at the westernmost point along the park loop road (NOT the parking area by the playground and bathrooms).

Wednesday, May 2      Piscasaw Fen Conservation Area

Join volunteer Brian Hale on a hunt for spring wildflowers in the fen and oak savanna habitats of the Piscasaw Fen. Participants will also see the habitat restoration that is in process at this Boone County Conservation District site. The Piscasaw Fen Area is located at the south end of Norris Lane, which runs south off of Edson Road. Edson Road is just south and east of the Village of Poplar Grove.   Easy hiking.

Tuesday, May 8    Burr Oak Valley Preserve

The Natural Land Institute owns this 99-acre oak woodland with three small hilltop prairies.  NLI staff member Ed Cope will lead this moderate hike through the woodlands, near an intermittent stream, and up the hills to the prairie openings.  We can expect to see blue-eyed grass, columbine, maidenhair fern, and rare kittentails.  Park at the southern entrance in the Tina Lynn Court cul-du-sac.  From Roscoe, drive east on Burr Oak Road, turn north on Kristi Hills Drive, and west on Tina Lynn Court.

Wednesday, May 16      Howard D. Colman Dells Nature Preserve

Greg Keilback of Byron Forest Preserve District will lead this hike on property owned and managed by NLI. This 96-acre Nature Preserve is located along Hall Creek, southwest of Rockford.  One of the attractive features of this preserve is a series of cliffs known as the dells. Many unique plants restricted to limestone and dolomite outcrops are found here, as well as some northern relict plants. The floral display in the upland woods is one of the best in Winnebago County. Aldo Leopold and Paul Riis conducted some early deer studies in this preserve in the mid 1930’s.  Located near the intersection of East Severson Road and North Weldon Road. From Meridian and Montague Road, drive south and turn west onto McGregor Road, turn north onto Weldon Road.  Moderate-difficult hiking.

Tuesday, May 22   Hall Memorial Woods

Nathan Hill, Rockford Park District Natural Areas Supervisor, will lead us through this RPD-owned 40-acre remnant upland forest.  Many of the trees are old growth dominated by red oaks, basswood, slippery elm, and black walnut. White oak is more common on the drier sites. White ash, black cherry, shagbark hickory, yellow bud and butternut are also common throughout. Ironwood, choke cherry, hazel, arrowwood, and dogwood comprise the shrub layer. The herbaceous flora consists of nodding trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, wood phlox, wild geranium, wood anemone, and toothwort.  We will meet at the corner of Euclid and Linden in Rockford.  Moderate hiking.

Wednesday, May 30    Colored Sands Forest Preserve

Join Sand Bluff Bird Observatory’s naturalists Lee and Lynda Johnson for a wildflower walkabout tour of the beautiful sand country at Colored Sands Bluff Nature Preserve. The vegetation is unique to dry sand prairies, which once dominated the area but now are very rare. This easy level walk will be a great hike for beginners as well as the experienced. Bring a wildflower book, binoculars, and bug spray. Meet at the Banding Station parking lot at the end of Haas Road near Durand.

Tuesday, June 5      Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve

We have the opportunity to explore the woodland wildflowers and limestone cliffs at the new Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve with Severson Dells naturalist, Greg Rajsky.  We will walk 0.7 miles through newly planted prairie before we reach the wildflowers and walk 0.6 miles in the forest before we return to our cars.  As a reward for you efforts you will find Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild geranium, sharp-lobed hepatica, bloodroot, and red trillium set in a forest canopy of chinkapin, bur, and red oaks.  We will walk atop the most dramatic feature, which is the limestone cliff that follows the Rock River.  Take Highway 2 south past the Rockford Airport and turn right on Kishwuakee Rd and drive for 3.8 miles. Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve will be on the right side of the road at 7901 Kishwaukee Road, Stillman Valley.  Moderate-difficult hiking.

Wednesday, June 13 Flora Prairie Nature Preserve

This 9.7-acre prairie is owned by the Boone County Conservation District.  Aarron Minson, BCCD restoration technician, will lead us through the dry dolomite prairie, through a small wooded ravine and near several large, spreading bur oaks.  The state endangered wooly milkweed was collected here in 1946 by Egbert Fell. Easy hiking.

Tuesday, June 19     Harlem Hills Prairie Nature Preserve

Gary Anderson and Jerry Paulson will offer their guidance on this visit to Harlem Hills Prairie. If the season is progressing typically, the hills should be pink/purple with thousands of Pale Purple Coneflowers. Always a great place to see a sunset. Meet on Flora Drive in Loves Park. Easy hiking.

Wednesday, June 27     Deer Run Forest Preserve

Mike Groves of the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County will lead us on this walk through Deer Run Forest Preserve. We will enter between two prairie restorations undertaken in 2000 and will compare a burned with unburned prairie (one side is slated to be burned in early spring). Spiderwort should be in full bloom, white wild indigos, pale purple coneflowers, and butterfly weed will be starting to develop flower stalks and heads.  June grass will be flowering and setting seed. We will then hike along the Kishwaukee River trail through the floodplain forest.  We should hear frogs and migrating birds.  Located 3 miles southeast of Rockford on River Road at 5691 River Road, Cherry Valley.

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