A large preserve with overlooked natural areas, bisected by the West Branch of the DuPage River and Klein Creek
Portions of the Great Western Trail and Illinois Prairie Path access restored habitats, Kline Creek Farm
1,102 acres, 5 miles of multi-use trails make triangle around 200-acre living-history farm
Behind the Scenes
The Forest Preserve District is working to restore a glacial lake, marsh, savanna, and several prairie parcels at Timber Ridge
From Chicago, take I-290 to I-88. Exit north on Rte 59, turn west/left onto North Ave, and head south/left on County Farm Rd to Kline Creek Farm.
Into the Wild
Timber Ridge Forest Preserve
Photo: Scott Kobal/FPD of DuPage County
At the 1,102-acre Timber Ridge Forest Preserve in Winfield, Illinois, northwestern DuPage County, the old adage applies: come for the woods, stay for the butter-churning. Here, natural and cultural history intersect, as do two major recreational trails.
A good place to begin or end a tour of Timber Ridge is Kline Creek Farm, toward the east of the preserve. Depicting life in DuPage County in the 1890s, the farmhouse, outbuildings, and 200-acre grounds offer programs almost every weekend, including old-fashioned canning and maple sugaring. In winter, a guided tour of the farmhouse will warm chilly skiers.
While Kline Creek Farm and surrounding farmland define the preserve for many, the Forest Preserve District manages a full 800 acres for nature, evoking the groves and wild lands that commingled with many farms of the 1890s. At least 200 acres have undergone habitat restoration in the past few years.
Visit the restored savanna behind the farmhouse for bur oak, shagbark hickory, Allegheny shadbush, and southern tree moss. These established trees and accompanying shrubs and plants, including native violets and cardinal flower, offer the highest-quality woodland habitat in the preserve. Just east of the farmhouse, a new 70-foot bridge crosses Klein Creek (who says they had to spell it the same way?). Beaver, mink, and great blue heron have appeared here, and the district has stabilized the creek’s shoreline with fiber rolls and native plants.
Photo: Ed Reschke
Another well-tended habitat is the five-foot-deep glacial Spring Lake off Geneva Road. Previously choked with buckthorn, its restored shores now feature white oak, shagbark hickory, green frogs, and western chorus frogs. Visitors must walk north off the road about 1,400 feet through the woods to see the lake. A sizeable marsh also lies farther west and just north of Geneva Road. Herons, killdeer, turtles, white water lilies, knotweed, common bur reed, and green frogs make their home there.
Portions of the Illinois Prairie Path and Great Western Trail run through Timber Ridge. Wide and well maintained, both trails allow for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. They pass through former farmland where, with help from the district, native prairie plants are replacing buckthorn and box elder.
The Great Western Trail crosses the West Branch of the DuPage River, and merges with the Illinois Prairie Path at Prince Crossing Road. At the opposite end of the preserve, the mile-long Kline Creek Path connects the diverging paths to complete a five-mile triangle. Kline Creek Trail passes Timber Lake (stocked for fishing), more restored prairie, and the entrance to the farm.
Visitors can access Kline Creek Path or the Illinois Prairie Path from a small parking lot just west of the junction of Geneva and County Farm Roads or from the farm parking. For more on Timber Ridge Preserve, call (630) 871-6406. The farm, (630) 876-5900, is open year-round, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Monday.
— Gail Goldberger