different ecosystems in a small area results in abundant
and diverse plant life, winding through stream corridors,
woodlands, and fens
Combined with the ecologically inseparable
Lyon Forest Preserve to the north, Richard Young Forest
Preserve in Kendall County covers a modest 140 acres. But
with nearly 500 identified plant species, that's where the
modesty of these flora-packed preserves ends. "The
plant list here is so long because there are so many different
ecosystems in such a tight area," explains Jason Pettit,
executive director of the Forest Preserve District.
Take Rte 47 south to Yorkville
and across the Fox River. In Yorkville, turn left/southeast
onto Rte 126. Take 126 to Rte 71, and turn left/northeast.
Follow Rte 71 to the Richard Young Forest Preserve
entrance and parking lot, on the left.
Two trails lead north from the Richard
Young Forest Preserve parking lot through high-quality,
remnant stream corridors, woodlands, and fens. One footpath
crosses Lyon Creek and heads either north along the creek
or east to a loop through a small, tightly entwined prairie
and fen ecosystem. The loop circles through brown-eyed Susans,
cinnamon willow herb, Indian grass, whorled milkweeds, sedges,
rushes, and a variety of goldenrods. These species comprise
a prairie ecosystem that recolonized after topsoil was removed
for roadwork. On the outer edges of the loop, a wetter area
accommodates riverbank wild rye, dark green rush, and other
rushes and sedges.
"It is kind of fun waiting to see
what's going to come up in various places in here,"
explains the preserve's namesake, Dick Young, a longtime
resident of Kendall County who helped petition for the establishment
of the county's forest preserve district in the 1960s. (A
widely recognized expert on Chicagoland flora, Young has
also been honored with another preserve in Kane County that
bears his name.)
A footpath cuts north along the creek,
through a floodplain filled with oak, hickory, and ash.
This section has benefited from restoration work aimed at
returning it to open woodland. A second limestone trail
leaves the parking lot and follows the west side of the
creek to a shelter and scenic overlook. From the overlook,
the varied topography of these two preserves is evident.
Although it may appear to be a glacial feature, the deep,
unevenly chiseled landscape was formed by gradual stream
erosion. The slow-growing ironwood, an understory tree whose
lower branches rot and drop off after 25 to 30 years, resides
here, as does musclewood, which is found in dry knolls in
the wetter areas.
Both trails meet at Hepatica Hill where,
on a sunny day, the white bark of a towering sycamore pops
out against the blue sky. Along with the hepatica grow fragile
fern and bellwort, shaded by gnarly chinquapin oaks. North
of the hill, the trail crosses into Lyon Forest Preserve,
named for an historically prominent Kendall County family,
and leads into a miniature savanna-prairie where blazing
star and big bluestem flourish side by side. Further along,
sumac, pagoda dogwood, and hazelnut, with its little pink
blossoms, fill in above the one-flowered cancer-root.
To the north, a boardwalk skirts along
Lyon Fen. "This area is really rich in biodiversity,"
comments Young. Warm groundwater seeps out of the ground
365 days a year at several spots along the side of the hill.
The water that pours through this raised seep is at a constant
temperature and pH, an ideal fen environment for meadow
and other sedges, turtlehead, verbena, fen cattails, and
wet varieties of goldenrod.
The many footpaths that meander through
Lyon Forest Preserve eventually meet and form one eastward
path that leads from savanna to a particularly diverse shrub
layer in the higher mesic and dry woodlands.
Amenities at the Richard Young Forest
Preserve parking lot include a shelter, fire pit, and latrines.
Nature programs are held at the two preserves throughout
the year. In addition, the Kendall County Forest Preserve
District welcomes individuals interested in helping natural
resource management efforts at the preserve. For additional
information, or for a copy of the district's newsletter,
contact Jason Pettit at (630) 553-4131.