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 presents this bi-weekly series to help readers discover the amazing array of plants and animals in the rivers, prairies and woodlands “in our own back yard.” FREC is an alliance of 35 member organizations “dedicated to educating and advocating for the plants, animals, natural resources and ecosystems of the Four Rivers Region.” Please visit www.fourriver.org.
This week, FREC proudly showcases the following treasure of our local environment: Rock Cut State Park, 7318 Harlem Road, Loves Park, IL 61111.
By Jessica Vandeboom
Resource Analyst, Winnebago County Soil and Water Conservation District
In Winnebago County, there lies a gem of a natural area dubbed Rock Cut State Park. This 3,092-acre park, owned and managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), offers year-round recreational opportunities and is teeming with life. Of all the spectacular natural features within the park, the two lakes stand out above the rest. Pierce Lake offers great passive recreational opportunities including canoeing, kayaking, ice skating and fishing.
For those fishing enthusiasts out there, cast your line in Pierce Lake for a chance to catch largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, channel catfish, bullhead, northern pike, muskellunge or walleye.
Olson Lake is enjoyed more by swimmers wanting to get a little more acquainted with the water. Olson Lake Beach offers lifeguards, sand volleyball courts and paddle boat rentals. Top your visit off with a relaxing picnic at one of the several picnic areas throughout the park; each complete with tables, outdoor stoves and pit toilets.
A variety of habitats, including hardwood forest, make Rock Cut a rewarding destination for birdwatchers. Restored prairies showcase beautiful prairie grasses and flowers and provide habitat for rare grassland birds. One-hundred-ten varieties of wildflowers delight visitors throughout the spring and summer.
Disabled people are accommodated at the park several ways. The IDNR offers hunts for people with disabilities in an effort to manage the deer and turkey populations. The Lions Club day-use area offers one of two fishing piers that are accessible for the disabled. The park offers similar accommodations including paved walkways, picnic shelters, restrooms with accessible toilets and showers, and accessible parking spaces.
Open year-round, the campground offers sites of all varieties including a primitive cabin. The campground offers an array of amenities including water, electricity, sanitary dump stations, showers, toilets, a boat launch and playground equipment. If having an extended stay isn’t in your plans, you can get a quick overview of the park by adventuring down many of the trails bisecting the site. The trails can be used for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian purposes. The trails are clearly marked for your safety. Be sure to check for conditions and closures before hitting the trails. Trails in the park are connected to the Willow Creek Bike Trail and Perryville Path, a paved trail system connecting trail-users to nearby Loves Park and Rockford.
For additional information, call IDNR at (815) 885-3311
Take I-90 west to Rockford. Take the Highway 173 exit. The park is accessible from Highway 173, at the north entrance and Harlem Road at the south entrance.
Summer hours (April-October), 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Winter hours (November-March), 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
From the Mar. 3-9, 2010 issue