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, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter @forestpreserve.

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 or call 630-444-3190.

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 Creek Bend Nature Center is located at 37W700 Dean Street, St. Charles.

Creek Day: A Summer Camp Special

The best part of summer?  It depends on who you ask, but many would answer summer camp! A popular warm weather activity for generations both young and mature, camp has always been a time to explore nature and meet new friends. At the Forest Preserve District’s Week in the Woods summer camp, this still holds true! Throughout our week-long camps, there are a variety of activities every day such as crafts, outdoor games, and hikes that encourage kids to explore the natural world. A popular favorite activity of campers is Creek day, where they grab their bathing suits and head to Ferson Creek to play for the day. The creek is home to all kinds of aquatic creatures, such as crayfish, frogs, water skaters, and more; many of which we found on the most recent creek trip!



Our Naturalists and their campers search the water with their nets


We had a gorgeous, sunny day to get out and explore the creek with our nets! The water was perfect to splash around in and yielded many different creatures that we caught to examine then release back into the creek. When we weren’t searching for the next best creature to drift along, the campers enjoyed swimming and learning to skip rocks; many of them showed awesome talent with it! At the end of the trip, it was clear that the campers had learned so much and gained an amazing appreciation of the creek as a not just a fun place to play, but also a habitat for the many creatures they found! Enjoy the pictures below of the trip and some of their finds! Keep scrolling for information on how to give your kids the opportunity to explore this summer…



A tiny leopard frog



Our nets caught many crayfish!



A small nymph.



A crayfish inside our “specimen bin” that was shortly after returned to it’s habitat.



Another crayfish- these little guys were everywhere!



Fish on! This little one was quickly returned to the water after swimming into our nets.



One of our last finds of the day- a beautiful pair of shells.


Want your kids to explore the marvels of nature? Sign them up for Week in the Woods summer camp! Each nature camp runs for five days each, Monday through Friday. The dates are as follows:  “Summer Unplugged” August 5-August 9. Camp is for kids entering 1st-6th grade, and there is a fee of $175/child for the week. Advance registration is required, register by calling 630-444-3190 or email 

Get to Know a Naturalist: Ben Katzen


Ben at Harvest of the Acorn Moon

Name:  Ben Katzen

Alma Mater: University of Florida

Hometown: Downers Grove, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 19

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

In college, as a sophomore business major, I realized the importance of doing what you love. I changed my major to Forest Resources and Conservation.

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Working with people from all walks of life throughout the County.

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

How to effectively communicate with people of various age levels and backgrounds.

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

The Canadian Rockies.

What is one item you can’t live without?

Tie between eyeglasses and shoes/boots.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

Car repair and electronics.

What is your favorite genre of music?

Progressive Rock.

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

Be yourself.

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

Wild Turkeys.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Having a child I taught in our preschool class come back 13 years later to be our college intern.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

Harvest of the Acorn Moon, our Fall festival.

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

Go on guided hikes to learn from other naturalists.


Camp is Calling: Tips to Make Your Camping Trip Run Smoothly



Ah- the great outdoors! As the days get longer and the nights become warmer, many folks will be pulling out their tents and other gear to get ready for camping season. There’s nothing better than a few days spent in nature with your family, friends, or just yourself. As we gear up for camping season to come our way, here are some tips to help make your camping trip run smoothly.

Check all equipment. Nothing is worse than packing up, driving to the campsite, and realizing your gear is broken. Be sure to test out all equipment you plan to bring before you leave so that you’ll have proper shelter, food, and other items working properly.

Choose your campsite. This is one of the most important tips: know where you’re going before you leave. Sure, it can be fun to drive around and survey the sites, but it can also be stressful if you get lost or the campsites have little to no space left. The Forest Preserve District of Kane County has multiple campsites for you to enjoy: Big Rock Campground and Forest Preserve, Burnridge Forest Preserve and Paul Wolff, Camp Tomo Chi-Chi Knolls, and LeRoy Oakes. Some sites may require renting them before use, so be sure to check before you confirm plans.

Pack more than just your average camp food. Not all dinners have to be hot dogs and s’mores; branch out by trying recipes you can make ahead of time! By making a few campfire-ready meals ahead, you’ll cut down on prep time at the campsite and try recipes you never thought you could have while camping!

 Leave it how you found it. If you’ve generated any trash during your trip, be sure to dispose of it in the proper places as designated by the campground. This not only makes you a stellar citizen, but it also improves the experience for the campers arriving after you leave. Aside from that, it ensures our environment stays trash and pollution free so that we can all enjoy it for years to come. Win-win!


 Find and follow us on social by searching @forestpreserve. Visit our website at for more information on our campsites and forest preserves.

Make it Memorable: Host Your Next Event in the Beautiful Forest Preserves of St. Charles

Within the wooded areas of the forest preserves of St. Charles sits our beautiful rental facilities, ready to make your next event a memorable experience. Creek Bend Nature Center and Barbara Belding Lodge have hosted many special occasions including weddings, birthday parties, and corporate events. At both properties, guests are treated to the views of our woodland areas while enjoying the comfort of our updated facilities.


Creek Bend calls LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve home, sitting just a few steps away from the banks of Ferson Creek. The home dates back to the 1930s and has a rich history. It also holds the nature center, an interactive space where visitors can learn about the preserve and the many creatures that live within it. There are plenty of rooms to rent within the house, including the grounds that have seen many beautiful outdoor wedding ceremonies and receptions.





Photography by @Nicodem Creative


Nestled in the woods of Brewster Creek Forest Preserve, the cozy venue also known as Barbara Belding Lodge sits, surrounded by woodland. The lodge houses multiple meeting rooms, a catering kitchen, seating for over 100 people, and an expansive outdoor deck that gives visitors a stunning view of the forest. Built on the former grounds of the YWCA Camp Tu-Endie-Wei, the lodge and 27-acre preserve sit on the Brewster Creek greenway. Consider the lodge for your next special event to create a lasting memory for you and your guests!




Photography by @KristaWeberPhotography


If either of these properties catches your eye, we encourage you to come visit us during open tours on Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. We would love to show you what our venues can offer you and your event. For more details, call 630-444-3064 or email


Check out our Facebook pages for more pictures from events held at these venues: 



Best Birding Spots in Kane County Forest Preserves


A pelican is spotted at Dick Young Forest Preserve by Erica Lemon, District Naturalist

Within the trees that reside in the Forest Preserve District of Kane County lives a wide variety of birds big and small. Throughout the year, different species can be spotted across the county, making our forest preserves an excellent destination for avid birders. Although some seasons may bring more excitement than others, you’re sure to hear birdsong any time of year and identify at least a few of our flying friends. Wondering when and where to go birding in Kane County? Keep reading!

In any season there is guaranteed to be activity. Summer is typically quieter time as most birds are off rearing their young in nests and trees. However, you can still find and hear many species! Spring is considered one of the most exciting seasons for birding as there are not only many native species out, but migrating species visit during this time as well. Birds can be heard singing throughout the trees and found sporting their courtship plumage as they search for a mate. As for fall and winter, there are bird species aplenty as well; although you’ll have to brave the cold to see them! Owls are a popular bird seen during the wintry months, and the Great Horned Owl nests during this time- which has been found at multiple forest preserves in Kane County including Fabyan Forest Preserve and Johnson’s Mound.

Kane County’s forest preserves offer a range of landscapes and habitats, which makes for a great variety of birds:

Tekakwitha Woods: Excellent for songbirds and waterfowl due to its location along the Fox River. This preserve tends to be busiest bird-wise during spring and fall migration.

Jon Duerr Forest Preserve: Also a great location to view songbirds, and is located on the Fox River. The river acts as “bird highway” during migration, and this preserve has quite the record for sightings. Reported sightings include Prothonotary Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, and Summer Tanagers. 211 species have been spotted here, making this a highly recommended spot!

Dick Young Forest Preserve: Due to the many different habitats at the preserve (prairie, woodland, and wetlands) there are a variety of birds that can be spotted here such as grassland and wetland birds. The woodlands are filled with warblers in the springtime, and the marsh hosts all manners of waterfowl during migration season such as egrets, mergansers, teals, and even white pelicans are known to stop here! Overall, 249 species have been reported at this site.

Bliss Woods Forest Preserve: There are certain species of birds that have very specific habitat requirements which means that they can’t be found just anywhere. Bliss Woods provides an essential interior woodland habitat that many birds, such as the Pileated Woodpecker, can be found in. Another bird known to inhabit these woods is the Red Headed Woodpecker, just one of the 150 species that have been reported at the preserve.


While there are many spots around the county that are excellent for birding, these are just a few that come highly recommended from our Naturalist staff. If you have a favorite birding spot, comment below, we’d love to know!

Get To Know A Naturalist: Josh Libman



Josh presents at a program

Name: Josh Libman

Alma Mater: University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign

Hometown: Lockport, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 5 years

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

I’ve been tuned into nature my whole life. In high school, when asked “what do you want to do with the rest of your life?”, the answer came pretty easy – park ranger!

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

The natural world is constantly in flux, and every day brings a new discovery. My favorite part of being a naturalist is having the opportunity to stay in touch with that.

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

The most important skill I have acquired in my career is the ability to find an interpretive moment in any situation. Whether it’s a spider crawling across a classroom floor or a warbler singing its heart out in the forest canopy, you have to be ready for anything!

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

I love travel, so hiking anywhere would do! Provence in France sounds cool!

What is one item you can’t live without?

I can’t live without chapstick.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

Outside of work I love to bird watch and cook. Visiting a local farmer’s market, finding fresh produce, and preparing a meal for loved ones is a solid day in my mind!

What is your favorite genre of music?

Psychobilly shoegaze crustpunk

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

If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

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

I don’t have a specific favorite animal, but I am partial to birds in general.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

I am proud every time I get a special request for a guided hike.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

My favorite event is a program called Kane County Certified Naturalists. It really feels like we’re empowering adults to make informed, ecologically sound decisions.

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

Advice for a future naturalist: start with humble beginnings and work your way up! Volunteering can lead to an internship, which can turn into a position. The naturalist community is full of interesting people, get out there and make some connections!



A Week in the Woods


Naturalist Ben Katzen leads campers on a hike through the prairie

Have your kids always wanted to learn how to survive in the woods, or learn how the field of STEM relates to nature? Or maybe their goal (or yours for them) this summer is to unplug from technology and immerse yourself in the great outdoors! Then we have great news: the Forest Preserve District’s summer camps are a perfect activity for your child. At our naturalist-led camps, kids will be able to get out of the house and into nature at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve throughout the summer.

Survival skills are extremely important to both animals and humans who may venture into the woods! In the first week-long installment of summer camp, “Tracking and Survival”, kids will learn how to “read the woods” by searching the forest preserve for clues such as tracks and rubbings that will reveal the hidden world of animals and how they survive in the woods. Kids will also learn human survivals skills such as how to make a rope and build a shelter, among other lessons. It will be a week filled with games, crafts, and lots of hiking!

In July, we’ll discover the beauty of the natural world through STEM-based learning principles at “STEM in Nature”. With the help of naturalists, campers will discover that STEM is all around us in nature! There will be lessons around the architecture of a bird’s nest, the feat of an insect gall, the symmetry of beehives, and much more.


Campers take a swim in the creek with Naturalist Josh Libman

In the last summer camp installment in August, we’ll focus on enjoying the beautiful weather and outdoors the best way possible; unplugged! At “Summer Unplugged”, kids will have the chance to experience the grandeur of the outdoors just like they did in the good old days. Getting in touch with nature will be the focus that week as campers will be able to play around the forest without any of the common distractions that come with everyday life. The woods, creek, and prairie are just waiting to be explored!

Each nature camp will run for five days each, Monday through Friday. The dates are as follows: “Tracking and Survival” June 24-June 28, “STEM in Nature” July 15-July 19, and “Summer Unplugged” August 5-August 9. Camp is for kids entering 1st-6th grade, and there is a fee of $175/child for the week. Advance registration is required, register by calling 630-444-3190 or email