Wild Things: The District's Largest Forest Preserve
At 3,478 acres, Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve in northwest DuPage County is the largest forest preserve in the county. When combined with James “Pate” Philip State Park to the north, if forms a continuous 4,000-acre stretch of open space, according to District senior ranger Dave Sima. The preserve is named after George Pratt, a township supervisor and Forest Preserve District commissioner in the 1960s and 70s, he said.
Pratt’s Wayne Woods 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. The District removed agricultural drainage tiles, resaturated the ground and returned more than 130 acres to viable wetland ecosystems as part of the Brewster Creek Wetland Restoration Project in the north central part of the preserve. 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 more than 1,000 species of native plants and animals. Below the savanna’s widely spaced oaks grow dogbane, pale-leaves sunflower and smooth yellow violet wildflowers. In the marshy areas, visitors 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, the Audubon Society 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.
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.
Read about why Pratt's Wayne Woods is one District ranger's Forest Fave.
Sima talks about Pratt’s Wayne Woods on Wild Things on WDCB Radio (90.9 FM).
Pickerel Lake at Pratt's Wayne Woods.