Winter 1998

Into the Wild

Isolated park features geologically formed Esker Trail, threatened species: the savanna blazing star

Cap Sauers Holdings Map
Cook County, Illinois

Cap Sauers Holdings Nature Preserve offers one of the greatest opportunities for solitude in the Chicago Wilderness area. In the middle of the 1,670-acre preserve, 3/4 mile from any road, lies the most isolated spot in Cook County.

 
DIRECTIONS
 

From the east, take the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) to Rte. 45. Go south on Rte. 45 to Rte. 83, then go north on Rte. 83. Cap Sauers Holdings is bordered by Willow Springs Rd. (104th Ave.) on the east and Rte. 83 on the north.

The preserve features almost 15 miles of foot paths, ideal for weekend hikers, as well as about eight miles of large, multi-purpose trails designed for horseback riding and mountain biking. Although the trails are not groomed for skiing, adventuresome cross-country skiers often glide into the woods during the winter. Those who brave the cold might glimpse the great horned owls that reside at the preserve during the late winter months, stumble upon some coyote tracks, or find themselves face to face with one of the many white-tailed deer that roam freely here.

The terrain encompassed by Cap Sauers Holdings varies greatly. Vast, open oak woodlands cloak the rolling uplands. Streams which flow into the Sag valley to the north cut deep ravines, which harbor forest communities dotted with black walnut, ash, and basswood. Many ponds and wetlands are scattered here and there.

Much of this territory was grazed and farmed heavily before the land was purchased by Cook County. It was named for a longtime superintendent of the Forest Preserve District, and was dedicated as one of the first Illinois Nature Preserves in January, 1965.

One of the most striking features of the preserve is geologic. From the Esker Trail, named for the glacial formation it follows, visitors can view one of the best examples of an esker in Illinois. The southern part of the preserve was originally prairie. You can reach the Visitation Prairie from the Esker Trail, located just off of Rte. 83. Through prescribed burnings and clearings by district staff and volunteers, much invasive brush has been removed and the original beauty of the prairie restored. The prairie itself, in addition to serving as Solitude Central for Frazzled Urbanites, harbors one of largest surviving populations of a threatened species — the savanna blazing star.

Cap Sauers Holdings does not have on-site parking or a main trailhead. Visitors can park at Teasons Woods on the southeast corner of the intersection of Rte. 83 and Willow Springs Rd. (104th Ave.) or at Horse Tail Slough on Willow Springs Rd. (104th Ave.) just north of McCarthy Rd. (123rd St.). From there, find one of the multi-purpose trails marked with a gray Forest Preserve District sign and follow it into the discovery zone of this vast and varied preserve. Or you can park along Rte. 83 at the 'Take a Hike' sign that marks the beginning of the Esker Trail.

Cap Sauers Holdings is open from dusk until dawn. For more information, call the Forest Preserve District of Cook County at (630) 257-2045. Directions From the east, take the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) to Rte. 45. Go south on Rte. 45 to Rte. 83, then go north on Rte. 83. Cap Sauers Holdings is bordered by Willow Springs Rd. (104th Ave.) on the east and Rte. 83 on the north.

M. Kathleen Pratt