oak and hickory forest is a gem among nature preserves
tranquil, oak-hickory forest of nearly 900 acres is a gem
among nature preserves. Rustic, gravel trails encircle an
expansive interior full of myriad wildlife. The absence
of bicycles, pets, and large groups of visitors make Thorn
Creek's 2.5 miles of trail ideal for hikers, bird watchers,
photographers, and naturalists. Autumn colors ranging from
bronzy purples to vibrant oranges to rosy reds illustrate
the rich variety of growth in the woodlands.
I-57 to Sauk Trail. Take Sauk Trail east to Rte. 50
and turn right. Take a left onto Stuenkel Road and
when it comes to a T with Monee Rd, take another left.
The Thorn Creek sign and nature center will be on
terrain of the preserve rises from the creek valley to the
upland forest of oak and shagbark hickory, with winding
ravines that drain spring rains into Thorn Creek. Steep
ravines create lookouts over the sugar maple, elm, and black
walnut trees rooted in the floodplain. A shallow pan-like
depression in the upland forest has allowed a wide array
of vegetation to grow in marshy areas. Among the 330 different
plant species at Thorn Creek are a variety of shrubs including
sumac, maple-leafed viburnum, witch hazel, nannyberry, and
blue beech. False indigo, milkweed, and wild bergamot are
among the long list of species of the forest floor.
the serene trails of Thorn Creek ascend into the woodlands,
the plush undergrowth of herbaceous plants thins abruptly,
revealing the boundaries of last year's unexpected wildfire.
(This year a major project will be repairing the boardwalk
damaged by that fire.) Visitors can observe a new generation
of tree growth sprouting up from the ashes.
trees, for which the site was named, line the forefront
of the woods. Also found at Thorn Creek are white ash, basswood
and swamp white oak. Wood thrushes, which are sparse in
the Chicago region, are interspersed throughout this area.
An offshoot of the woodland trail offers a dramatic change
in scenery, as red and white oaks give way to jack, Austrian,
and white pine trees that guide the trail out to Owl Lake,
at the far east end of the preserve. Here live spotted and
blue-spotted salamanders, central newts, green, bull leopard,
chorus and tree frogs, and American toads.
goldfinch, chickadee, the white-breasted nuthatch, and the
tufted titmouse are just a few of the many birds seen and
heard throughout Thorn Creek. Great horned and screech owls,
as well as turkey vultures, Coopers hawks, and red-tailed
hawks also nest in the woods. A small heron rookery is found
small prairies adorn the outskirts of the preserve. The
Thorn Creek Nature Center, housed in a 120-year old church,
is equipped with a bird-watching window, a childrens
area, and many educational displays. Naturalists lead regular
night hikes during the fall and Woodsfest, an annual celebration,
takes place on Oct. 29 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. For further information
and a list of programs, call the nature center at (708)747-6320,
open 12:00-4:00 p.m., Thursday-Saturday. The preserve is
open year round from 8:00 a.m. until dark. Cassandra