Fees, Hours & Exhibits
Fees required for activities, events and programs.
Grounds Open Daily
Dawn to Dusk
Weather & Conditions Permitting
Monday-Saturday • 10am to 4pm
Weekday Evenings & Weekends: Hours dependent on facility rentals
For Holiday Hours: click here
As part of its mission to “inspire the naturalist in all of us,” Hickory Knolls Discovery Center encourages everyone to continue to grow their knowledge of the natural world. As such, we currently have this exhibit on display…
Check out our Animal Ambassadors: click here
Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Program
Hickory Knolls is a proud participant in the Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Program, an initiative started in the 1990s and coordinated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. For more details: click here
Blanding’s turtles have bright yellow chins and throats and smooth, helmet-shaped yellow-speckled shells. They live in quiet waters in wetlands; shallow, vegetated portions of lakes; and wet sedge meadows. They are chiefly carnivorous and eat snails, insects, crayfish and small vertebrates like frogs and fish. Due to habitat loss, combined with the turtle’s low reproduction rate and age at which breeding begins, the native Blanding’s turtle population is at risk.
The goal of our turtle exhibit is to not only educate the public on the plight of Blanding’s turtles, which are endangered in Illinois, but also to achieve indoor breeding success. An indoor pond is home to six turtles, two males and four females, and features 500 gallons of aquatic habitat, a basking area and a ‘sandy beach’ where the turtles will one day deposit their eggs. Through cooperative programs such as the one between the Park District and the Forest Preserve, it is hoped that more Blanding’s turtles can be bred in captivity.
Do Blanding’s turtles still live in the wild in Kane County?
They sure do! Although few and far between, several Blanding’s turtles are known to inhabit our area. In fact, thanks to the information on display here at Hickory Knolls, at least three previously undiscovered Blanding’s turtles have been documented. Vital statistics including location, gender, measurements and approximate age have been recorded and entered into the Blanding’s Recovery Program database.
What should I do if I spot a Blanding’s turtle?
Do not handle the animal*. Take a photo and, if possible, record the GPS coordinates of the location where the turtle was seen. Then call Hickory Knolls at 630-513-4399. We will relay your information to the appropriate Blanding’s Recovery Program authorities.
*Note: If the turtle is in a roadway, intervention may be necessary. Ask a Hickory Knolls naturalist for more advice.
Mighty Musk Ox
Located at the west end of Hickory Knolls’ lobby, this exhibit has as its centerpiece a bull musk ox surrounded by terrain typical of the end of Illinois’s last Ice Age. The exhibit was created by Geneva-based Angrypop Exhibit Services, LLC and Acme Design Inc. in Elgin. While scenes of receding snow and mud flats simulate Ice Age Illinois, the focal point of the exhibit is the preserved musk ox, donated to the park district by St. Charles residents, Dennis and Mary Mueller. The Muellers acquired the animal from Mary Mueller’s late brother, Dick Orban, of Kankakee. Orban, an experienced hunter and lifelong conservationist, was the sole hunter on a trip to the Arctic in November, 1991. Tracking a herd of musk ox through frigid, minus-30-degree temperatures accompanied by his Inuit Indian guide, Olie, Orban set his sights on an older alpha male. Interpretive panels detail the history of the musk ox and showcase why it continues to be a valuable animal even in modern times.
Chimney Swift Tower Project
Chimney Swifts are small, dark birds that are cylindrical in shape. They historically used large, hollow trees for nests and roosts. As the ancient forests were cut down, they learned to use chimneys and other structures instead. Today chimney swifts rely almost entirely on man-made structures for nest sites. But the chimneys of old, without linings or caps, are disappearing—just as the forests did. Conservation groups throughout the eastern United States are building Chimney Swift Towers, hollow columns custom-made for swifts to roost and nest in. Hickory Knolls is home to one such tower, built by Veterans Conservation Corps of Chicagoland and installed in May 2014.
Each year, the Chimney Swifts winter in the Amazon Basin of Peru. They return every March to the continental United States to breed and raise their young. Many individual birds will use our tower to roost or rest, but each summer only one pair of swifts will build a nest and raise young there.
How can you help the chimney swifts?
If you have a masonry or clay tile chimney, keep the top open and the damper shut March thru October. Metal chimneys should be permanently capped.
Have your chimney cleaned in early March before the chimney swifts return for the summer.
Before hiring a chimney sweep, ask what action they take when they find birds in a chimney. Avoid companies that advertise “Bird Removal.”