Look for things you’ve wanted to do outside, but didn’t have the time.

If you and your family are looking for things to do outside of the home, our Kane County forest preserves are currently open. Of course, you can always find fun things to do right in your own backyard, too! We encourage the community to go for a walk in the preserves, but most importantly, to use social distancing (six feet from each other) and good hygiene during this time.

Below are some suggestions on what activities you can do either in your own backyard, or out and about somewhere in nature.

  1. Build a “fort” outside with sticks or anything you can find in your yard.
  2. Go on a scavenger hunt at a preserve and see what items you can find. (Pine cones; skunk cabbage; maple trees; animal tracks, etc.)
  3. Construct a butterfly house.
  4. Start planning the native plants you want for your yard. *Note: You can order native plants from the Forest Preserve District online at: Native Plant Sale Order Form
  5. Bring your art supplies outside and make a painting.
  6. Measure trees and find the tallest one. *Note: We offer Tree Identification as well as the “Big Tree Program” nature programs that you can attend in the future. See our TreeLine Newsletter for upcoming events: The TreeLine Newsletter
  7. Blow bubbles and chase after them outside.
  8. Create a nature mask craft by using nature items you find in your backyard. (Feathers, leaves, seeds, etc.)
  9. Paint rocks (smooth stones) that you find.
  10. Go on a nature hike/walk as a family.
  11. Is it raining out? Put on your boots and jump in puddles.
  12. Draw with chalk on the driveway and sidewalk.
  13. Play classic outdoor games such as “Red Light, Green Light;” “Tag;” “Red Rover;” etc.
  14. Make homemade play-dough and play with it outside. Bonus: It’s less messy this way! Here’s a recipe: Homemade Play-dough Recipe
  15. Grab a good book and read under a tree.
  16. Take your phone or camera with you and play “photographer” and get some neat photos.
  17. Search for bugs.
  18. Make mud pies.
  19. Find what flowers are starting to surface.
  20. Sit on a bench and relax.

Do you have other fun outdoor activities that you could add to this list? Comment below! We’d love to hear your suggestions.

(Please be respectful of others on the trails and in the preserves, and exercise all guidelines that have been set forth by the CDC.)

Big Sky - LeRoy OakesPhoto by Naturalist Josh Libman

Enjoy the sweet taste of spring at Maple Sugaring Days, March 7 & 8

Discover the sweet secret of how to turn tree sap into syrup and enjoy samples in the Maple Cafe on March 7 and 8, from 12-3 p.m., when we host Maple Sugaring Days!

Forest Preserve Naturalists will show how to tap a maple tree, and you’ll have the opportunity to try drilling and setting a tap. We’ll simmer sap over an open fire and watch as it thickens to syrup. Join us on a hike to learn how to distinguish maples from other species of hardwood trees. Don’t forget to drop into the Maple Cafe to taste pure, local syrup. We’ll have ice cream that you can drizzle with maple syrup, plus hot chocolate and coffee available for purchase. Plus, Creek Bend Nature Center will be open where visitors can enjoy the interactive exhibits available, and make a craft to take home.

No registration is required for this family-friendly program. Creek Bend Nature Center is located within LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve at 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles.

For more information on Maple Sugaring Days, call 630-444-3190, visit www.kaneforest.com, or find us on social by searching @forestpreserve.

 Photos by Communications & Marketing Coordinator Brittany Kovach

Staying Warm and Safe in the Outdoors


LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve. Photo by Naturalist Erica Lemon.

The temperatures have dropped, leaves have fallen, and ice covers the ground. It’s officially winter here in Kane County! Although the greenery may be gone, there are still plenty of things to do and places to explore in Kane County’s forest preserves.  The preserves remain open 365 days of the year, and trails offer a look into the winter wonderland that our preserves transform into during these months. Hiking in the winter is different than in other seasons, and it is important to ensure you are taking all precautions to keep yourself safe and warm in the outdoors. Keep reading to learn about some safety measures you can take to make sure you have the safest experience outside.


Bring someone along or communicate your location. This is an important precaution to take, as going out into the wilderness alone without anyone having knowledge of your location can be dangerous. Be sure to express to others where you’ll be going and about how long you expect to be outside. Or, bring someone along with you! This will not only make your trek safer, but provide company as well.


Dress warm and bring essentials. It’s well known that winter in Illinois can be very chilly at times. It’s best to dress in layers, and choose materials that will keep you warm. Winter boots will help to keep your feet warm as you shuffle through the snow, and wearing two layers of gloves rather than one can be helpful in keeping hands dry. It’s very important to remember to cover any exposed skin, such as your face and neck. Bring other necessary items such as water, food, and safety items such as a first aid kit.


Be aware of shortened daylight hours. Nighttime comes quickly in the winter, with the sun setting as early as 4:30 p.m. Plan outdoor activities for earlier in the day and keep a watch or phone on you to keep track of time. This will help you avoid getting stuck in the dark, and make the most of the daylight! Visibility can also be lower in the wintertime with blowing snow, so pack navigation tools such as a map to prevent losing track of where you are.


Pack a warm drink. Who doesn’t love a good hot cocoa break? In addition to water, bringing along a warm drink will help in keeping your body warm. Additionally, it will help to prevent dehydration, which can still be a danger in winter when exerting yourself. To prevent liquids from freezing, consider carrying them in a thermos or close your body.


Be prepared to turn around. Weather conditions can change quickly during the winter. It’s important to check conditions ahead of time and plan to end your activity early, if needed. If you feel the weather is getting worse, it’s best to head home to avoid a potential accident or getting lost. As always, prepare ahead of time and bring items you may need when facing rough weather such as a headlamp and extra clothing to keep you warm.

Learn more about Kane County’s Forest Preserves and programs at www.kaneforest.com, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter @forestpreserve.

Holiday Mixer – Friday, Dec. 13

Have you bought your ticket for our Holiday Mixer yet? Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and enjoy good company, refreshments, and beverages from our sponsor, @TwoBrothersBrewingCompany!

Join friends, neighbors and naturalists, while you sip a beverage and tour the charming 1930s era home, called Creek Bend Nature Center. Learn about the history of this building and all that it offers, including renting it out for your next special event! Socialize and play games in the nature center, and view the interactive exhibits.

Buy your tickets early by calling 630-444-3190 or email events@kaneforest.com. Or, buy your tickets at the door. This event is on Friday, Dec. 13, from 6:30-9 p.m. The fee is $15/person. This event is for guests age 21 and older. Creek Bend Nature Center is located within LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve at 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles.

shutterstock_623112506Photo courtesy Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images


Happy Harvest! Forest Preserve Fall Festival – Sept. 29

It’s that time of year where everyone is gearing up for pumpkin season! Smells of apple cider and pumpkin spice fill the air. Back by popular demand is our Harvest of the Acorn Moon Festival on Sunday, Sept. 29, from Noon – 3 p.m. at Oakhurst Forest Preserve.

You and your family and friends are invited to join us for pumpkin painting, mule-drawn wagon rides, games, nature crafts, guided hikes, live music and refreshments. Take a picture with our new harvest face banner! This event is geared towards all-ages.

Admission is free. There’s a nominal fee for crafts and refreshments. No registration is required. Come celebrate all that the fall season has to offer! Happy Harvest!

Photos by Communications & Marketing Coordinator Brittany Kovach

Scout Out Your Next Adventure

Calling all Scout leaders!

Are you looking for the next adventure for you and your scout group? Great news- with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, you can discover local forest preserves with a Naturalist!

Our Naturalists can lead your group on an informative hike, or be the perfect complement to your campout! On informative hikes, a Naturalist will cover many different aspects of flora and fauna while helping your scouts work towards their next badge, patch, or pin. You can choose to do a “Seasonal Spotlight” hike that focuses on a variety of topics such as Spring Wildflowers, Trees and Their Leaves, The Amazing Prairie, Animal Tracks and Signs, and more. There are many exciting changes in the natural world every season, and we have a topic for every one of them! Complete with hands-on, interactive discussion and trail hiking, your scouts are sure to enjoy this excursion into nature.

scout hike Les Arends EL 11 2014

A Scout group inspects a tree trunk affected by beaver activity

All programs are 60-90 minutes long. Programs can be scheduled at any preserve and can be flexible depending on the needs of your group.  Reservations are required for these hikes. The fee is $2 per person with a minimum of $20 needed for a program. For more information about scheduling and fees, email programs@kaneforest.com or call 630-444-3190.

Support Blandings Turtle Conservation in Kane County!

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Calling all turtle lovers! Would you like to help the Blandings Turtle population thrive in Kane County? Participate in the Kane Forest Preserve Foundation’s “Adopt A Turtle” program! These ceremonial adoptions aid the Forest Preserve District’s conservation efforts and research above and beyond their current capacity, so that we can help this species get back on their (webbed) feet.

Who’s ready to become a turtle parent? We are so excited to see our Blandings babies soon; the countdown is on! Can’t wait until they arrive to learn more? Check out the links below for more information or search #KaneAdoptATurtle!

Adopt-A-Turtle information: http://bit.ly/KaneAdoptATurtleFlyer

Adopt-A-Turtle online form: http://bit.ly/KaneAdoptATurtleCC

Note: These are ceremonial adoptions. No turtles will be removed from Forest Preserve District property.

Nature Tykes & Little Naturalists

Little Naturalists 9 28 2017 IMG_1930.jpg

Spiders, bugs, and the great outdoors…does this sound like something your child would enjoy? Have them explore nature with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County! Our programs “Nature Tykes” and “Little Naturalists” are designed for young children who enjoy learning about the natural world.

At these hour long programs, we will focus on a different theme each month. Every session will begin with a short introduction to the topic, and feature a combination of games, stories, crafts, or nature hikes that are led by a District Naturalist. 3 year olds are invited to attend Nature Tykes, and Little Naturalists is geared for 4 and 5 year olds. Spiders, insects, and leaves are the topics we’ll be focusing on this fall.

A parent or caregiver must be present at Nature Tykes throughout the program. Little Naturalists is a “drop-off” program, and adults and siblings are welcome to wait in the nature center or enjoy the trails during the class. The sessions are listed below and are held at Creek Bend Nature Center:

  • Thursday, September 26: Insect Wonderland. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 24. Spider Mania. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 21. Leaf-O-Rama. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.


There is a fee of $5 per child, per session. To register for a session, call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com. Creek Bend Nature Center is located at 37W700 Dean Street, St. Charles.

Rusty Rodeo

Rusty Rodeo_Logo_2019


There’s an underwater invader in our local streams and rivers- and we want you to help us find them! Our culprit: The Rusty Crayfish. This tiny aquatic creature is considered an invasive species (non- native) and can negatively affect the health of an ecosystem if they are left unchecked. Are you ready to wrangle some of these creatures in? Will it be you that finds the biggest, longest, or most wanted of these Varmints? Join us and find out as we scour the common habitats of these wanted creatures at The Rusty Rodeo!

The rodeo will take place at Glenwood Park Forest Preserve, 1644 S River St. Participants are encouraged to wear closed-toed shoes and clothes that can get muddy and wet as much of our exploration will be done in the water! In addition to removing the crayfish, there will be music, and prizes for those who find crayfish within the winning categories. Sound like a good time? We’d love to see you there! The event will run from 11am-1pm and admission is FREE!

Get To Know A Naturalist: Erica Lemon


Erica examines a bug with a camper


Name: Erica Lemon

Alma Mater: University of Iowa

Hometown: Grew up in Burlington, IA. Now live in Pingree Grove, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 14 (13 full time)

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

In community college I really got interested in environmental science and it gave me the motivation to educate the public on our natural world.

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Seeing the wonder in the eyes of all ages, but especially in little kids, when they see or learn something new.

What is the most important skill you have acquired through your career?

Being able to adjust the way I’m speaking depending on the knowledge level of my audience.

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Zion National Park.

What is one item you can’t live without?

Sugar haha!

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

I crochet and I’m into nature photography.

What is your favorite genre of music?

80’s rock and pop.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t worry about things you can’t change. Though I struggle following that piece of advice!

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

Turkey Vultures.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Hiking with a group of Aurora High Schoolers. There was one student that looked like someone 100% not interested in nature, not dressed quite right for the outdoors, ear buds in, hat backwards, stayed at the back of the group. As the hike went on, he kept kind of inching his way closer to the front of the group. About half way through, he was walking right with me and asking all sorts of relevant questions. By the end of the hike, he told me he would love to do “something like this” when he was finished with school!

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

Monarchs & Milkweed, hands down!

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist? 

Focus on the part of nature you enjoy most, we can all learn from each other to expand in other areas!


View the slideshow for a few examples of Erica’s nature photos!

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