Fall Faves From the Field

By Beth Schirott, Communications & Marketing

Cooler temperatures, fewer bugs and amazing colors make this time of year perfect for outdoor outings. An informal survey of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County employees — those women and men who spend most of their workdays out in the preserves — revealed these especially scenic must-see sites.

Pratt’s Wayne Woods
There’s a stretch along the Illinois Prairie Path at Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve in Wayne that’ll make you feel like you’re walking on top of Brewster Creek Marsh. About a mile northwest of the trail’s intersection with Powis Road, the marsh levels with the trail on both sides and immerses you in golden grasses, rushes, reeds and sedges. On a calm day, a mirror image of the sky floats on the still water. When it’s windier, fallen leaves hitchhike on the breeze before landing on the marsh, creating a photo opportunity of their own. To fatten up for winter, birds gorge themselves on the elder and dogwood berries.

Kline Creek Farm
Kline Creek Farm in Winfield is a great place to learn about farm life during 1890s DuPage, including seasonal chores like harvesting and canning. Those at the farm say that the most beautiful view this time of year is enjoyed from between the oat and corn fields southwest of the parking lot. From the lot, walk through the entrance gate as if you’re heading toward the farmstead, but at your first opportunity, turn left, and walk south through two more gates until you reach the high point of the field. Here, where crunchy, flaxen-colored stalks remind visitors that fall was once a celebration of abundance, the view to the west spotlights Klein Creek as it winds through fall trees.

Winfield Mounds
According to one District naturalist, the hickory grove that overlooks the West Branch of the DuPage River at Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve in Winfield is unbeatable on a warm October afternoon. It may take a little doing to reach it, but the sense of seclusion it offers makes it worth the effort. Starting at County Farm and Geneva roads, follow the Illinois Prairie Path west and then south for about half a mile. You’ll pass a hand well and cross over the river. Just past the river, a woodchip footpath heads south through the hickory grove and toward the forest preserve’s namesake prehistoric Native American burial mounds. As you walk the narrow, winding footpath under the grove’s reddish brown and butterscotch canopies, you’ll likely encounter busy gray and fox squirrels gathering acorns and hickory nuts from the forest floor for their winter caches. Make sure to take time to appreciate the gorgeous view of the river from the grove.

Fischer Woods
Those more adventurous and unopposed to following footpaths and deer trails should plan an outing to Fischer Woods Forest Preserve in Bensenville. The site has neither developed trails nor a parking lot, but its northwest corner is home to a 100-year-old wet upland forest, one of a few left in the county. This quiet woodland, with calm ponded areas and chance sightings of elusive wildlife like deer, coyotes, and mink, displays an abundance of fall colors courtesy of its mature maples, elms, ash, red and white oaks, and basswoods.

Meacham Grove
As one longtime District ranger says of the hill at Meacham Grove Forest Preserve in Bloomingdale, “I've always enjoyed hiking to the top to view the fall colors that surround the blue waters of Maple Lake.” It’s a place to inhale a refreshing breeze and to soak up the burgundy, orange and ginger old-growth oaks to the west and the russet wetland flora in Circle Marsh to the northeast. Visitors can witness the final flutters of summer monarchs and take a last look at kingfishers hunting along Spring Brook Creek to the west. Hikers can reach the hill by parking in the forest preserve’s main lot and following the Maple Lake Trail south to the footpaths that lead to the top.

Fullersburg Woods
According to the folks at Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center in Oak Brook, fall colors reign supreme throughout this preserve, but at one particular spot, you’ll have a hard time believing you’re still in the flatlands of DuPage County. From the education center, take the Interpretive Trail west to the Multipurpose Trail, which heads west for a bit before turning back east and then north. At the highest point on the trail, right before it forks, there’s a log bench. There, on what geologists call a “glacial end moraine,” take a seat, and watch the Salt Creek valley below. When the sun hits the slow-moving water just right, the reflecting fall colors sparkle. At this elevation, you’re surrounded by the leafy treetops of species rooted far below, which serve as inviting rest stops for southbound birds.

One last must-see fall vista is the view of Rice Lake from the end of the 6.5-mile Herrick Lake Regional Trail at Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton. The landscape at sunset never looks the same twice. You can literally hear fall take hold as dry grasses rustle and Canada geese and other waterfowl chatter as they fly south.

Ready to explore? Then get outdoors with one of our DuPage County Forest Preserve Trails Guide preserve maps, and have a fabulous fall!  
Walk through flaxen-colored corn fields at Kline Creek Farm.  
Watch gray and fox squirrels store their nut caches on the forest floor at Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve. 
Take in colors of beautiful maple and oak trees along the trail at Fullersburg Woods.
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