Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve was donated to the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County in the fall of 1978. This unique property was previously owned by the Rockford Rotary Club and was home to Camp Rotary. Camp Rotary hosted camps for the Rockford Boy’s Club, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts during the summers between 1927 and 1978. The property was also home to a fresh air camp, which was a preventative camp run by the Winnebago County Tuberculosis Association for under-nourished and underweight children up to age 12. Over 100,000 children attended Camp Rotary, where they participated in many classic camp activities, including basketball, crafts, swimming, canoeing on the Kishwaukee River, and movie nights.
Since its donation to the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, which happened over a two-year period between 1978 and 1980, Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve has become a beautifully restored property that overlooks the Kishwaukee River. Bunker Hill, which is located on the Rotary property, is the highest point in Winnebago County. The rolling landscape of the Preserve highlights the unique impact that the glaciers had on this region. As you walk through Rockford Rotary Preserve, you may notice layers of exposed sand and gravel soil. These sedimentary layers are remnants of the ancient limestone bedrock of the region, which was broken and crushed during the massive flooding at the end of the last ice age. These same flooding events cut deep into the local landscape and formed the Kishwaukee Gorge (information and photos retrieved from History of the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, Illinois by David Bishop and Craig G. Campbell).
Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve is home to about 3 miles of moderate, hilly hiking trails and almost a mile of equestrian trails. These trails are a perfect spot to look for early spring wildflowers, including bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), white fawnlily (also known as trout-lily) (Erythronium albidum), and sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba). These flowers usually show their true glory during the end of April and beginning of May.
Watch this video to get a taste of the hidden beauty in Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve:
Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve: 5390 Rotary Road, Cherry Valley, IL 61063
Learn more about the amenities at Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve here
Map of Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve