[Image description: a view of the Sugar River with trees lining the shoreline. In the center is a slightly transparent brown box with the words “Know Your Preserves: Colored Sands” in the center.]

Colored Sands Forest Preserve is 306 acres of land along the Sugar River. This preserve is unique in its geological make-up, spring wildflowers, and the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory. Colored Sands gets its name from the mineral deposits in the sands of the dunes, ridges, and prairies. These unique formations were established after the retreating of the last glacier movement, roughly 10,000 years ago. The carving away of land by the Sugar River is how the bluffs were formed. The grounds are now stabilized by native prairie species and other vegetation. 

With such unique attributes, this preserve is a great place to visit year round! In the spring, gaze upon the fields of blue lupine and shooting star. In the summer, search for the interesting puccoon species, a native perennial wildflower made up of small, yellow flowers on short stems. In the fall, experience the brilliant oranges, yellows, and browns of the season. In the winter, enjoy the snow and magical silence that accompanies it. 

Within Colored Sands is the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory. Sand Bluff is one of the country’s largest small-bird banding operations that is open to the public. Through different migratory seasons, the volunteers of Sand Bluff band birds. This banding helps scientists and the government in the understanding of population numbers, trends, and migratory patterns. This data is vital for protection and education efforts conducted by public and state entities.

Sand Bluff Bird Observatory is completely run by volunteers. They welcome volunteers of all ages, bird knowledge levels, and abilities! Fall migration banding season has wrapped up for the year, and the volunteers were kept plenty busy. The final total of birds banded was this fall migration season was over 2,800. Since the start of Sand Bluff Bird Observatory in 1967, they have banded over 330,000 birds! This banding process helps researchers all over the world in understanding bird migration patterns and population changes. If you’re interested in learning more about Sand Bluff or how to get involved, visit their website.

Watch this video to learn more about Colored Sands Forest Preserve:

Colored Sands Forest Preserve is located at 10602 Haas Road, Rockton, IL 61024

Visit the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County’s page on Colored Sands Forest Preserve here

Map of Colored Sands Forest Preserve

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