Pratt's Wayne Woods
The preserve is open one hour after sunrise to one hour after sunset.
Things To Do
At 3,433 acres, Pratt’s Wayne Woods is the largest forest preserve in the county. It's 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.
Pratt's Wayne Woods 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. The preserve's grasslands and wetland habitats are successful breeding sites for sandhill cranes, Henslow’s sparrows, least bitterns, yellow-headed blackbirds, and other rare species.
In 1998, the Forest Preserve District started work on the Brewster Creek Wetland Restoration Project in the north central part of the preserve. Since then, it's removed agricultural drain tiles, resaturating the soil and returning 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.
In 2004, Audubon named the forest preserve an Important Bird Area, and, in 2012, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission gave 256 acres of the preserve an extra level of protection by designating it as the Brewster Creek Marsh Nature Preserve.
The area’s first private landowner 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.