Forest Faves: Oldfield Oaks
Some of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s 60 preserves are known for their massive acreage, amenities and attractions, while others are quiet little gems waiting to be discovered. Oldfield Oaks Forest Preserve in Darien is the latter.
District ranger Dan Hebreard has favored this little gem for several years. One of his favorite spots is the bridge overlooking the preserve’s marsh. Hebreard enjoys walking along the trail and admiring the preserve’s diverse habitats. You can join Hebreard on a “Forest Fitness Walk” at Oldfield Oaks on Wednesday, Sept. 28 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Register online or by calling 630-850-8112.
Hebreard believes the most beautiful season to take in Oldfield Oak’s flora and fauna is in the fall. The preserve’s diverse ecosystem coupled with a little splash of topography make for a delightful experience. The preserve is home to a variety of wildlife, from foxes to great horned owls to western chorus frogs. The preserve is the perfect setting to see coyotes, deer and a variety of nesting and migratory birds.
Oldfield Oaks’ intact, mature oak woodland, natural wetland, and restored prairie make it a perfect spot for wildlife conservation activities such as amphibian monitoring and bird counts.
In years past, The District has cleared out several areas of invasive brush throughout Oldfield Oaks. Since 2006, District crews have removed nonnative woody growth to allow light to filter down to the woodland floor. Prescribed fires prevented woody re-growth and stimulated native wildflower populations. Today, these restored areas are responding with lush ground vegetation. Thousands of wildflowers such as blooming trout lilies, jack-in-the-pulpits. May apples, spring beauties and trillium can be found throughout the preserve today.
Oldfield Oaks has two trails: the North Loop (1.1 miles) and the South Loop (0.6 mile). The pleasant limestone North Loop trail weaves through the preserve’s mature oak woodland, natural woodland and restored prairie. There are several switchbacks to hike along that offer a variety of uphill and downhill hiking. This is a great trail to take a quick run or walk with your dog, as long as they’re on a leash. There are three log benches evenly dispersed along the trial to stop and rest, or to take a break to watch some of the many bird species in the preserve. Horse traffic is not allowed at Oldfield Oaks.
A 10-acre off-leash dog area is coming soon to the southwest corner of Oldfield Oaks. The area will feature concrete plazas with double-gated entrances, a 0.3-mile looped turf and gravel trail and a 0.6-acre area for small dogs, and a 6-acre parcel with multiple activity areas. When taking a break from the heat, visitors can find added in picnic tables shaded over by large trees.
The District expects construction to end by September, but it will not open the area until the grass firmly takes root, which is expected by fall 2017 or summer 2018.
As you enter the trail from the parking lot you will find this Bur Oak tree planted on Earth Day 2005.