Willowbrook

Willowbrook Forest Preserve

Willowbrook Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn features 50 acres of woodland preserve that provide a peaceful and intimate getaway. In addition to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, the preserve includes nature trails, a butterfly garden and outdoor native wildlife exhibit, including a sandhill crane exhibit. The preserve serves as a resource for understanding the natural world and provides learning experiences at Willowbrook Wildlife Center, a wildlife rehabilitation facility. The center teaches visitors how to live in harmony with diverse, healthy wildlife populations.

Willowbrook welcomes more than 120,000 annual visitors who enjoy self-guided tours of its exhibits, nature trails and butterfly garden and attend nature-based programs for children, adults and groups.

 

Natural Scene

Willowbrook Forest Preserve has woodlands interspersed with prairie and wetlands and bisected by Glen Crest Creek.  

 

Driving Directions

Willowbrook is located at 525 Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn. The entrance is on the east side of Park Boulevard at Fawell Boulevard, across from the College of DuPage. It is approximately one mile north of Butterfield Road (Route 56). 

Trails 

Willowbrook has a one-mile nature trail that provides an opportunity to learn about wildlife and the prairie, savanna, woodland and wetland habitats of the county. A half-mile outer loop and a shorter inner loop travel through 40 acres of restored habitats complete with interpretive signs and inviting benches. 

 

Willowbrook Wildlife Center

Willowbrook Wildlife Center serves as a rehabilitation center for native and migratory wildlife, treating more than 9,600 animals a year. It is the only publicly funded wildlife rehabilitation facility in DuPage County and one of the few in northeastern Illinois to treat native and migratory birds. Visitors can look into the kitchen and nursery and see Willowbrook staff prepare specialized diets and care for baby animals, and view exhibits featuring fish, birds, toads, frogs and turtles. Young visitors can stop by the discovery area with games, puzzles, a puppet play station and other activities to explore.

Willowbrook offers educational programs throughout the year to individuals as well as school, youth, Scout and adult-community groups. For more information on programs and associated fees, contact Willowbrook at 630-942-6200.


Butterfly Garden

Willowbrook’s butterfly garden showcases landscape ideas to attract butterflies and other wildlife species. Interpretive signs introduce necessary elements to provide suitable habitat including food, water and shelter. The area contains tagged plantings that are attractive to butterflies, and a sensory garden that abounds with sights, smells and textures. An educational display cabin features a butterfly life-cycle puzzle and play area and binoculars for a close-up view of nectaring butterflies and blooming plants.


Outdoor Exhibits

Native wildlife with permanent disabilities are provided homes along Willowbrook’s outdoor exhibit trail. Residents include a bobcat, bald and golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, owls, red foxes, groundhogs, raccoons and opossums. Willowbrook is also home to two state-threatened sandhill cranes. An enclosed wetland bird habitat along the nature trail houses the cranes and serves as a unique educational experience.  

 

History

Willowbrook is made up of more than 100 feet of deposits left behind when the Wisconsin Glacier melted. Those deposits, part of the Valparaiso Moraine, give the preserve its contours and contain a mix of rock from the bottom Lake Michigan, chunks of Canadian Shield granite and samples from all points in between. Ancient stone spear points found at the preserve indicate that early hunters traversed the land in search of game.

The first land survey done of Willowbrook in the 1830s indicates the preserve was prairie and used by farmers for agriculture. Eventually, the land was bought by Al and Audrie Chase, who used it as a weekend and summer retreat from work at the Chicago Tribune. Willowbrook was established in 1956 after Audrie Chase donated 45 acres of land to the District in the first land donation in the District’s history. Chases asked that a portion of the land be preserved as a bird sanctuary and named Willow Brook. The preserve has since grown to a sanctuary for all injured wildlife complete with a full-time veterinarian and staff of experienced wildlife specialist, naturalists and volunteers.

In 1981, the District added a new education and treatment center and an outdoor exhibit area. In 1993, the site was officially renamed the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County offers scores of nature-related programs and activities for grownups, kids, families and groups year-round. Click below to register for programs, reserve shelters and campsites or purchase permits, and we'll see you soon!

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