What Are Natural Areas?
Settlement of the St. Charles area in the early 1800’s changed the landscape from vast native prairies, woodlands, savannas and wetlands to cultivated agricultural fields. In more recent decades, these farmlands have been replaced by housing and retail developments that have sustained the suburban growth of the St. Charles community. Today, very few of these open natural spaces remain. St. Charles Park District has acquired and maintains with restoration efforts 500+ acres of natural areas that contain a diverse makeup of the original landscape of this region. Some of the natural ecosystems that the park district manages are fens, wetlands, savannas, prairies, woodlands and more! Natural areas provide many benefits including:
• supporting native plant communities and habitat for local wildlife
• preserving local biodiversity including threatened and endangered species
• containing and mitigating flood waters that overflow rivers and streams into wetland areas
• filtering contaminants in water and recharging the aquifers we rely on for fresh, clean water
• opportunities for recreation and education
Why Visit A Natural Area
Connecting with the natural world is good for the body, mind and soul! There are many mental and physical benefits that are congruent with spending time in nature. Reducing stress, decreasing your risk of ailments, restoring your energy, provoking clarity in thought, and boosting your immunity are just a few of these types of mental and physical benefits of when immersing yourself in the sounds and beauty the natural world. Explore these unique lands to discover what flora and fauna call St. Charles home. Plan some time to enjoy a leisurely walk or moderate hike in one of the many natural areas listed below.
Delnor Woods Park – 45.9 acres
Rt. 25 at Fulton Avenue or Wing Avenue, west of N. 11th Avenue
A native oak-hickory woodland with century-old canopy trees, interpretative signage, paved and natural walking trails, scenic wildlife viewing, fishing opportunities, picnic pavilions, paved pathways and a dam with a small waterfall.
|Wood Duck, Green Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Coopers Hawk, Blue Jay, Beaver|
Ferson Creek Fen – 43.1 acres
Illinois State Nature Preserve since 1990
State Route 31, north of Ferson Creek Park, along the west side of the Fox River
A premiere wetland featuring sedge meadows, fen habitat with conservative plant species, upland prairies, floodplain woodlands, boardwalks, walking trails, walkout overlooks and more.
|Bald Eagle, Pileated Woodpecker, Sandhill Crane, Queensnake, Red-tailed Hawk, Baltimore Oriole, Marsh Wren, Belted Kingfisher, Grassland Crayfish, Prairie Crayfish|
Hickory Knolls Natural Area – 123.7 acres
Illinois Land & Water Reserve since 2004
2nd park entrance on Campton Hills Road, west of Peck Road; adjacent to Hickory Knolls Discovery Center
A diverse landscape of natural features such as savannas, glacial pothole wetlands, high-quality open woodlands, prairies, hillside seeps and more. Explore these natural habitats along its 3+ miles of trails.
|Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Bluebird, Tiger Salamander, Spring Peeper, Woodcock, Whitetail Deer, Tree Swallow|
Hunt Club Wetland – 6.4 acres
Fox Chase Boulevard at Waverly Circle
A restored wetland providing flood control for its surrounding areas. Comprised of a few open water pockets by wetland vegetation and a short section of prairie extending up its gradient.
|Great Blue Herons, Egrets|
Kingswood Wetland – 4.9 acres
King Richard Cr, west of King Alford Ct
A small wetland parcel surrounded by a woodland dominated by maple and oak trees. Paved walking path connects to Majestic Oaks Wetland.
|Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Garter Snake|
Majestic Oaks Wetland – 17.4 acres
Majestic Oaks Drive at Black Walnut Lane
A mature, oak-dominated woodland with a small riparian stream course flowing through its large canopy trees and a quality herbaceous understory. Paved trails lead to a bridge crossing the stream and connect to Kingswood Wetland.
|Red-winged Blackbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker|
Norris Woods – 75.9 acres
Illinois State Nature Preserve since 1978
Johnor Avenue and 3rd Avenue, along the east side of the Fox River
An outstanding historic forest dominated by large canopy red and white oak species – some 200+ years old, along with State threatened and endangered species. While heavily used by walkers and bikers along the Fox River Trail, the site contains multiple natural footrails to discover beautiful scenic views.
|Great Blue Heron, Egret, Coopers Hawk, Whitetail Deer, Summer Tanager, Pileated Woodpecker, Indigo Bunting, Belted Kingfisher|
Otter Creek Bend Wetland Park – 71.9 acres
First Private Wetland Mitigation Project in the United States
Crane Road, south of Silver Glen Road
An extensive wetland with loop gravel walking trail, boardwalks and bridges offering access to navigate the vibrant and valuable landscape while learning its story from interpretative signage. A stone overlook near the parking lot entrance provides a stunning view of the entire site.
|Great Blue Heron, Egret, Garter Snake, Prairie Crayfish, Red-tailed Hawk, Chorus Frog, American Bittern|
Persimmon Woods – 36.8 acres
Keim Trail off Fox Chase Boulevard
A unique upland swamp dominated by large oak canopies, hickories with adjacent marshy wetlands and expansive woodland sedge meadows. Home to one of the best Spring season ephemeral displays in the area including these wildflowers: Cutleaf Toothwort, Spring Beauty, Virginia Bluebells, Trout Lily, Bloodroot, Wild Ginger and more.
|Nesting Wood Ducks (Spring), Summer Tanager, Chorus Frog, American Toad|
Royal Fox Wetland – 3.8 acres
Royal Fox Drive, east of N. Kirk Road
A mature wetland and woodland dominated by maples and oaks. Walking trails and small bridges provide access to enjoy the large trees and herbaceous understory. Adjacent to Kingswood and Majestic Oaks Wetlands.
|Northern Cardinal, Brown-headed Cowbird, Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin|
Williams Wetland – 8.2 acres
Keim Court off Keim Trail
A restored parcel aiding in flood water mitigation for surrounding areas with small stretch of prairie and bordered by a strip of woodlands.
|Great Blue Heron, Egret, Painted Turtle|
For a map of St. Charles Park District natural areas, parks and facilities: click here