Into The Wind: Into The Wild: Discover the natural beauty of the Four Rivers Region
As with “No Child Left Inside,” welcome to a new series of articles in partnership with Four Rivers Environmental Coalition (FREC) and The Rock River Times. In recognition of the United Nations designation of 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, the FREC sponsors this bi-weekly series to help readers discover the amazing array of plants and animals in the rivers, prairies and woodlands ìin our own back yard.î FREC is an alliance of 35 member organizations ìdedicated to educating and advocating for the plants, animals, natural resources and ecosystems
of the Four Rivers Region.î Please visit www.fourriver.org.
By Jamie B. Johannsen
For the Four Rivers Environmental Coalition
The watersheds of the Rock, Sugar, Pecatonica and Kishwaukee rivers in northwest Illinois contain a wealth of natural beauty and resources. Partnering with The Rock River Times, the Four Rivers Environmental Coalition is launching a new series profiling wild places and natural area to help readers discover the rivers, prairies, woodlands, wildflowers and wildlife that are ìin our own back yard.î In local state parks, forest preserves, conservation sites and nature preserves live thousands of native species of plants and animals, species that make up some of the rarest natural communities on Earth. Communities like theseóprairies, oak savannas, woodlands, marshes, fens, sedge meadows and othersóonce covered most of the Midwest. They have been destroyed everywhere to make way for towns, developments and farms. But thanks to local conservation and management efforts, there are still hundreds of places you can visit to hear a chorus of frogs, view herons fishing, wade through waving prairie grasses, discover carpets of wildflowers or be soothed by a flowing stream. A few of these gems are protected remnants of original ecosystems; the majority of them have been strategically restored and managed to recreate ecological conditions that once again provide habitat for native plants and animals.
FRECís bi-weekly series will describe a different local site in each issue and highlight its natural features, habitat types, noteworthy species, recreational activities, special events and other insider tips for
getting the maximum enjoyment out of your visit to each unique natural gem.
Pecatonica Wetland Forest Preserve 5750 Best Road, Pecatonica, IL 61063 Winnebago County Forest Preserve District www.wcfpd.org Open to the public Acres: 1,048 Hiking trails: 8 miles Restrooms: yes
Pecatonica Wetlands is composed of 1,048 acres of flood-plain forest, oxbow pond marshes and upland forest along the Pecatonica River. The site has outstanding spring flora and birdlife. The preserve offers wildlife areas, fishing access, hiking and equestrian trails and picnic areas.
Wetlands, a rapidly-disappearing Illinois habitat, support more wildlife per acre than any other ecosystem. This preserve was formerly farmland that flooded frequently when the river escaped its banks. A major engineering project in 2006 provided for more consistent hydrological conditions. Forest preserve district staff are able to manage water levels on this site to maintain nesting, breeding and feeding habitat for water fowl, turtles, fish, salamanders and frogs. Of course, all these aquatic critters attract hungry foxes, raccoons, owls, hawks and coyotes. Commonly seen birds include bald eagles, sharp-shinned hawks, great blue herons, green herons, belted kingfishers and hooded mergansers. The oncer are sand hill crane has been seen nesting at Pecatonica Wetland.
The preserve is open year-round, but some of the mown trails that traverse the preserve will be very soggy or submerged in wet spring or summer months. Spring is, however, a great time to visit Pecatonica Wetlands to view frogs emerging from the mud, birds returning from the South and diverse wildflowers in both the forested and prairie habitats. A spacious shelter house with 16 tables, seating 200, and electricity, graces the upper portion of Pecatonica Wetlands. The shelter house area and surrounding mowed fields provides a great vista of rural Winnebago County. Directions-5750 Best Road, Pecatonica, Ill. 61063 Pecatonica Wetlands may be accessed just north of the Village of Pecatonica and the Pecatonica
River, on the west side of Pecatonica Road. The picnic shelterhouse area is on the east side of Best Road, west of Pecatonica Road and north of Blair Road.
From the Feb. 10-16, 2010 issue
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