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Pratt's Wayne Woods

Preserve History

The area’s first private land owner was Mark Wentworth Fletcher, a local surveyor. Fletcher purchased 320 acres from the federal government on Feb. 18, 1846, and built a farmhouse along Dunham Road.

The land changed hands several times before coming under the ownership of Franz Palm. The Palm family had originally intended the land to be their retirement home, but the state of Illinois had other plans and purchased Fletcher’s original 320 acres with the intent of creating a state park. It abandoned the idea, though, and in 1965 donated 221 acres to the Forest Preserve District. George Pratt, a township supervisor and Forest Preserve District commissioner in the 1960s and 70s, became the driving force behind the acquisition of additional lands, selling his family’s adjacent 250-acre Maple Spring Farm in 1974 to the District rather than a developer.

Now at 3,478 acres, Pratt’s Wayne Woods is the largest forest preserve in the county. Combined with James “Pate” Philip State Park to the north, it forms a continuous 4,000-acre stretch of open space.

Natural History

Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve in Wayne is located on the outwash plain of the West Chicago Moraine. Made up largely of wetlands, this landscape combines calcium-rich water with wet sandy soil to support plant life more commonly seen near Lake Michigan.

In 1998, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County started work on the Brewster Creek Wetland Restoration Project in the north central part of the preserve. Since then, it has removed agricultural drainage tiles, resaturated the ground and returned over 130 acres to viable wetland ecosystems. In 2005, work at the site unearthed the 12,000-year-old remains of a mastodon, giving it paleontological as well as ecological significance.

Today, the forest preserve is home to over 1,000 species of native plants and animals. Below the savanna’s widely spaced oaks grow dogbane, pale-leaved sunflower and smooth yellow violet wildflowers. In the marshy areas, explorers can view great Angelica, marsh marigold, shooting star, nodding ladies’ tresses and spotted joe-pye weed as well as egrets, great blue herons and wood ducks. In 2004, Audubon named the forest preserve an Important Bird Area for its grassland and wetland habitats that continue to be successful breeding sites for rare species, such as sandhill cranes, Henslow’s sparrows, least bitterns and yellow-headed blackbirds.

Brewster Creek Marsh Nature Preserve

Image © Illinois Nature Preserves Commission

The 256-acre Brewster Creek Marsh Nature Preserve was dedicated in 2012 and comprised of freshwater marsh and tall-grass meadow. The site supports numerous populations of rare birds, reptiles and native plants.

In accordance with the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act, bicycles, pets and horses must remain on the Prairie Path within the Brewster Creek Marsh Nature Preserve. Within the nature preserve buffer, bicycles are not allowed. Pets and horses must remain on the unmaintained footpath.

District ordinances already dictate the preservation of rich, natural habitats, but land and water reserve status provides an extra layer of protection for future generations. The District continues to own, manage and maintain these areas, but individuals who destroy natural resources or violate other regulations are subject to state penalties. For more on the nature preserves system, visit the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission's web page at http://dnr.state.il.us/inpc.



At Pratt’s Wayne Woods, visitors can enjoy hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and horseback riding on more than 12 miles of forest preserve trails. A stretch of the Illinois Prairie Path Elgin Branch cuts through the preserve as well.

In accordance with the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act, dogs and bicycles are not allowed within the Brewster Creek Marsh Nature Preserve.

License agreements and special use permits allow the use of a portion of the nature preserve buffer area only for special equestrian events.

When conditions permit, rangers groom trails for cross-country skiing. Classical cross-country skiers should use the set of tracks on the outside of the trail, leaving the inside for freestyle skiers and other trail users.

Horseback riders should park their trailers in the gravel lot on the east side of Powis Road and should not ride in developed recreational areas, such as picnic areas and campgrounds.

The Wayne-DuPage Hunt Club has been riding in the area for over 100 years and continues to host equestrian events at the forest preserve. As a result of these events and other horse trial groups, horse jumps are located throughout the preserve but are only for advanced riders.


Visitors can grab a picnic table or spread a blanket in the mowed grass at several inviting areas throughout Pratt’s Wayne Woods. Picnickers can also reserve a 100-person shelter with a large grill by calling Visitor Services at (630) 933-7248 but must do so at least three business days before their visit.

Ground fires are not allowed, but visitors can bring their own grills and use the on-site hot-coal disposal containers by the parking lot. For everyone’s convenience, Pratt’s Wayne Woods offers restrooms with pit toilets on the east side of Pickerel Lake.


Pratt’s Wayne Woods offers 58 acres of the finest fishing in the county at Pickerel Lake, Catfish Pond, Horsetail Pond, Beaver Slough and Harrier Lake, which is catch-and-release only. The District periodically stocks all but Beaver Slough with channel catfish and largemouth bass, but all five contain several popular species. In particular, Pickerel Lake, which features limestone shorelines and two fishing piers, offers rainbow trout, northern pike and crappie.

The Forest Preserve District allows ice fishing at Pratt’s Wayne Woods at the angler’s own risk; rangers do not monitor ice conditions. As a guideline, not a guarantee, a minimum of 4 inches of ice is recommended for any ice activity.

Anglers 16 or older who are not legally disabled must carry valid Illinois sport fishing licenses. They also need to carry Inland Trout Stamps in order to take trout from District lakes. Anglers must follow all state and District regulations.

Youth-Group Camping

Each of Pratt’s Wayne Woods’ two youth-group campsites can accommodate up to 25 campers and has its own picnic tables and fire ring. The sites are close to trails and lakes as well as restrooms with pit toilets, drinking water, trash and recycling containers, and firewood. As part of Districtwide efforts to help slow the spread of the emerald ash borer, outside firewood is not allowed.

Open year-round, these camping areas are set aside for use by youth groups. The District defines youth groups as recognized, nonprofit organizations. Only members of these groups, with their accompanying leaders, may camp in these areas. Camping permits and adult supervision of one leader over 21 years of age for every 10 children are mandatory for campsite use. Groups can reserve sites through Visitor Services at (630) 933-7248 but must do so at least three business days in advance.

Model-Airplane Field

Operators with valid District permits in their possession can use the model-airplane field on the east side of Powis Road. Annual and daily permits are available through Visitor Services at (630) 933-7248 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.


The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is committed to making its facilities accessible to all visitors. For special accessibility needs or concerns, please contact the District's ADA coordinator at (630) 933-7683 or
TTY (800) 526-0857 at least three business days in advance of your visit.

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