Restoring Grandeur: Kettle Woods and Musk Turtle Marsh at Waterfall Glen

Image © Mark Baldwin
By Nick Fuller, Natural Resources

Every day, I have the privilege to support the Forest Preserve District’s mission to protect and preserve the county’s flora, fauna and scenic beauty for the education, pleasure and recreation of DuPage residents. I get to see incredible habitat restoration projects at prairies, wetlands and woodlands and rivers across DuPage, and in the southeast corner of the county is one of my favorites.

The restoration of Kettle Woods and Musk Turtle Marsh at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is a success story on all fronts. New trails have made is easier for visitors to access the site year-round and take in new spectacular views of the surrounding natural areas. At the same time, the Forest Preserve District has been able to dramatically improve these two habitats, explaining the restoration process to visitors as work has progressed.

To me, the rapid improvement we saw so soon after removing dense thickets of weedy, invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle was truly amazing. The woods were choked with buckthorn, but just a month later the land began turning into a beautiful open vista. As we continued to pull back the buckthorn curtain, majestic oaks and woodland pools seemed to magically reappear with fields of wildflowers in spring, blooming irises in summer and abundant goldenrods and asters in fall. Trail-related work allowed us to remove unneeded paths that had jig sawed the core habitat into puzzle pieces. By removing those obstacles, we were able to increase the contiguous, undisturbed core habitat by 38 percent.

One of the cornerstones of the project, though, has been the restoration of the land’s “kettles,” rare, short-lived, springtime pools that are critical to amphibian reproduction. We were even able to add some of the invasive brush we removed to the pools to provide places where salamander egg masses could attach. Only one year after restoration began, these branches were covered with eggs.

It’s rewarding to see wildlife rebound in this area, but it’s even more rewarding to see visitors using the new trails and enjoying the views of the restored rolling woodland and the wildlife it houses.
Image © Mark Baldwin
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