Into The Wild: Kilbuck Bluffs one of Winnebago County’s oldest forest preserves

Kilbuck Forest Preserve is one of the oldest forest preserves in Winnebago County. Photo provided

In recognition of the United Nations designation of 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, the Four Rivers Environmental Coalition and The Rock River Times 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

By Jack L. Armstrong
President, Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners

One of the oldest Winnebago County forest preserves is Kilbuck Forest Preserve. The preserve consists of two parts along South Bend Road. The west portion has a road that loops around in the floodplain of Kilbuck Creek. Very large cottonwood, oak and other trees cover the area. Many fishermen have ready access to the waterway from the road. As the snow leaves and spring begins, the ground here becomes covered with spring beauties. The white-and-purple-streaked flowers light up the flats.

Across the road and covering the hill is the east portion of Kilbuck Bluffs Forest Preserve. This is the part that gives the name to the preserve. Kilbuck Creek flows rapidly along the bluff just to the south. An old stone shelterhouse rests right on the edge of the bluff. The structure contains a large fireplace and picnic tables. Just over the side you can look down on the creek. Another, newer shelterhouse is farther along the road to the east. This shelterhouse is open, airy and new, and has a close parking area. The roadway leads you in a large loop around through hardwood forest, a meadow area with a ball field, and a grove of evergreen trees planted many years ago.

However, if you are visiting this side of the forest preserve in the spring, stop at the first parking area and get out to check the flowers of the forest floor. Beds of spring beauties, bloodroots, dutchman’s breeches, and Virginia cutleaf cause you to step carefully. The sunburst of white bloodroots sparkle among the linear lines of tiny white pantaloons with their yellow tops of the dutchman’s breeches. Return a couple weeks later to a flood of blue Virginia bluebells covering the floor of the forest. A second blast of blue will follow as thousands of wild geraniums add their color to the springtime. The displays of ephemeral flowers are a visual stimulus that will be remembered with your memory or photographs.

Along with the flowers and early insects come the migrant birds. Looking over the edge of the bluff into the branches of eye-level trees brings the bird life very close. Kilbuck is a great spot to find birds during spring migration. Woodland birds from thrushes, tanagers, woodpeckers, vireos and warblers are common. Picnics are very enjoyable at Kilbuck.

To get to Kilbuck Forest Preserve, turn off Highway 251 south of New Milford onto Baxter Road to the west. Then, turn left on South Bend Road, and this leads directly to the preserve.

From the Sept. 1-7, 2010 issue

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