quarry lake filled by Big Rock Creek, evidence of a long-ago
glacier, a high-quality fen, and a verdant valley lined
by high sandy bluffs are found here
|Kane County, Illinois
In early summer, as slivers of light
sneak through the white oaks to the east, a noisy kingfisher
seeking a meal of fish skims above the 32-acre
quarry lake at Big Rock Forest Preserve.
Since its initial
acquisition in 1991 of land in the southwest corner of Big
Rock Township, the Forest
Preserve District of Kane County (FPDKC) has purchased
additional parcels. Today, with roughly 468 acres, Big Rock
is among the district's largest properties.
Big Rock Forest Preserve is on
Jericho Rd in the southwest corner of Big Rock Township.
Follow I-88 west to Sugar Grove and exit at Rte 47.
Follow Rte 47 south 2.5 miles to Jericho Rd. At the
intersection of Rte 47 and Jericho Rd, turn right/west.
Continue on Jericho Rd roughly five miles. Big Rock
Forest Preserve is the first entrance on the right/north
after the bridge over Big Rock Creek.
When Big Rock Creek broke its banks
during heavy rains in 1996, it burst through to the abandoned
limestone quarry beside it, filling the 65-foot-deep pit
and creating habitat for fish, including bluegill, black
crappie, largemouth bass, and sunfish. After building
an access road, parking lot, and pedestrian bridge, the
district opened the site to the public in the spring of
We stroll northeast on an unpaved
road that is sandwiched between Big Rock Creek and the
quarry lake. Below us, a ledge of dolomite bedrock parallels
the water's edge. Where the trail turns north, slabs of
limestone skeletal remains from the property's
previous quarry life are stacked cairn-like next
to the path. Pointed stumps of silver maple and box elder,
now weathered silver-gray, hint that beaver once foraged
"Big Rock is at the edge of two
major divisions in Illinois that are defined by plant
communities, glaciation, and topography," says Valerie
DePrez, FPDKC nature programs supervisor. "Where
the rock shelf is exposed, you can see scratches where
the glacier left its mark 10,000 years ago. Fossils in
the limestone include creatures from the Ordovician period,
such as trilobites and brachiopods."
Farther on, we turn west. Hearing
our footfalls, a pheasant hen bursts from her hiding place.
Goldfinches bob overhead and add their sweet notes to
the summer symphony. Visitors have seen other birds at
Big Rock, including osprey, brown creeper, Acadian flycatcher,
scarlet tanager, barred owl, tufted titmouse, and wild
We climb the man-made berm that rises
90 feet above the water's edge. "That's downtown
Aurora," says DePrez as she points southeast across
the lake. "And just behind us is the district's Deer
Valley Golf Course."
Although there's no formal trail,
hikers can reach the eastern portion of the preserve by
leaving the lakeside road and heading east toward the
oak grove along the ridge. Beyond that, the oxbows of
Big Rock Creek snake through a verdant valley lined by
high, sandy bluffs. Along the creek, massive sycamores
tower over ironwood. Trees found in the 80-acre oak-hickory
woodland include red, white, bur, and chinquapin oak;
bitternut hickory; American and slippery elm; and purple
"Other habitats at this diverse
site include a high-quality fen and a perched pond [a
pond that rests on a shelf, usually clay, above the water
table]," notes Drew Ullberg, FPDKC director of planning
Several years ago, the district seeded
roughly 20 acres with prairie grasses and forbs. Other
native plants at Big Rock include wingstem, swamp thistle,
cup plant, spotted Joe Pye weed, sedges, cardinal flower,
and Canada wild rye.
Activities at Big Rock include hiking,
catch-and-release fishing, and picnicking. Leashed pets
are welcome. Swimming is not allowed. A pit toilet is
available near the parking lot.
The district has scheduled a nature
walk for families from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, July
12, at the preserve. (No walk if it's raining.) Register
at (847) 741-8350, ext. 10.
For more information, see the Big
Rock Forest Preserve Web page.
Ann W. Davis