Into the Wild: Byron Forest Preserve’s Ripplinger/Gouker Preserve

By Richie Wolf
Superintendent of Education and Recreation, Byron Forest Preserve

At 6550 Illinois Route 2 in Byron, the Ripplinger/Gouker Preserve contains 102 acres of highly sloped landscape with poor soils. The property mostly consists of open prairie plantings with a few woodlots.

The land borders the forest preserve’s Etnyre Preserve, which has a nice oak/hickory savanna that was planted by the CCC in the 1930s. The property also has a late 1800s home that sits on the property and is the residence of a caretaker. The home has been extensively remodeled and provides security for the natural areas that surround it.

This land also borders the Oregon/Byron Sportsman’s Club. The preserve and the club are working together to offer an outstanding 3D archery range that is open to the public. They have also teamed up to provide a hands-on shooting opportunity for the district’s successful hunter education program. All students have the opportunity to shoot clay targets as part of their state-mandated hunter training. To learn more about the sportsman’s club, visit their website at The fees to join the club are $35 per year for individuals and $45 per year for a family. Access to the club and this property may be compromised because of the reconstruction of Route 2 south of Byron.

The property will soon have hiking trails that will be accessible from a parking lot off Townline Road. Some of the wild animals that may be encountered include indigo bunting, rufous sided towhee, screech owls, wild turkey and the white-tailed deer. Plants that can be found in the early summer are mayapple, wild geranium, trilliums and Virginia creeper. Once the prairie is restored, shooting stars, Indian grass, big bluestem and wild indigo should be expected.

Four Rivers Environmental Coalition (FREC) and The Rock River Times present 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.” Visit

From the May 25-31, 2011 issue

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