Northern Illinois prairies in summer are a paradise for wildflower lovers. Local naturalists recommend these five preserves for breathtaking views and blooms.  

Kieselburg County Forest Preserve

5801 Swanson Road, Roscoe, IL 61073

Kieselburg showcases several types of habitat including gravel prairie, wet prairie and a restored wetland which is classified as a calcareous seep, an uncommon wetland type in Winnebago County. The long connected loops of grass trails and relatively flat terrain at Kieselburg make it a favorite with hikers.

Photo by Elizabeth Palmer

Carl and Myrna Nygren Wetland Preserve 

3190 W Rockton Rd, Rockton, IL 61072

The Natural Land Institute has restored prairies, woodlands and wetlands to this beautiful land west of Rockton along Raccoon Creek and the Rock and Pecatonica rivers. In the summer, blossoms of wild bergamot, sunflowers and gray-headed coneflower create a purple and yellow ocean of color stretching from the scenic bluff in the north to the rivers in the south. 

Photo by Rob Clark

Harlem Hills Nature Preserve 

4979 Flora Dr, Loves Park, IL 61111

This gravel prairie contains a large number of plant species, including several that are threatened or endangered in Illinois. One of the most remarkable features of this preserve is the large number of prairie wildflowers, especially pale purple coneflower. Harlem Hills is Illinois’ largest and finest remaining example of a gravel hill prairie.

Photo by Severson Dells Nature Center

Colored Sands Forest Preserve 

10602 Haas Road, Durand, IL 61024

This preserve offers outstanding panoramic views of the pristine Sugar River. Because of its sandy soil, Colored Sands Forest Preserve supports many plants, and their associated wildlife, that are not found anywhere else in the county.

Photo by Jessie Crow-Mermel

Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve

7901 Kishwaukee Road, Stillman Valley, IL 61084

This former farmland is being restored to short grass prairie habitat. The unique cliff habitat along the Rock River protects unique plant communities. Cedar Cliff is ideal for hiking, sightseeing and wildlife viewing.

Photo by Bee Williams

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