Nature/ Wildlife Areas in Chicago

Top Nature & Wildlife Areas in Chicago, IL

Nature & Wildlife Areas in Chicago

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Nature & Parks
Nature & Parks
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Things to do ranked using Tripadvisor data including reviews, ratings, photos, and popularity.

What travellers are saying

  • chr0429
    Chicago, IL53 contributions
    Nice walk and best to go in summer when everything is green. It was late fall when we went but we still enjoyed it.
    Written 20 April 2022
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
  • ImmerWandern
    Palos Heights, IL7,227 contributions
    If you are in the city and need a quick fix of nature this is the place to visit.

    It is hard to emphasize how much this patch of ground offers in terms of natural beauty and bird habitat. Located at the tip of a small peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan just 6 miles from Navy Pier one finds small sand dunes, marshland, open grassland and a forest. It is surrounded by public Montrose Beach to the north and Montrose Harbor to the south it is still a an important spot for birds migrating along the Mississippi Flyway. 300+ avian species have been identified over the years.

    My wife and I are casual birdwatchers, happy to spot and later identify any birds we spot on our outdoor hikes. This was one trip we took expressly to look for the birds. So enamored we were of the experience we came back to spot more birds.

    A quick background on Montrose Point: this was once an Army base housing Nike anti-aircraft missiles. The base was decommissioned over 50 years ago. The military did plant a row of honeysuckle that proved attractive to birds, so much so it became known as the “Magic Hedge”. Unfortunately those honeysuckle were an invasive species so the Chicago Park and local chapters of the Audubon Society worked to remedy that starting in the 1980s planting viburnum, sumac, and dogwood. Landscape naturalization has continued ever since.

    Arrive early for both best bird-watching conditions and access to street parking, especially if visiting on a weekend. The spring months are the time to visit to spot migrating birds.

    There is no particular spot to start at or one to focus on and I would suggest seeing it all. It is a small patch of land, after all. Walk along the designated paths in the dunes habitat. Watch the waterfowl along the beach and pier. Take in the views of downtown framed by sky above and grasslands below. Walk around and through the “Magic Hedge” looking out and listening for the numerous songbirds visiting the area.

    Enjoy the view along the walk along the lakefront but take a few minutes to wander inland and look at the skyline framed by the trees and overhanging branches. Or step behind the strip of grassland between the tree line and shoreline and enjoy the view of the city with a foreground of “prairie”; we certainly plan on coming back yet again in the summer when that grassland has grown back and the wildflowers have bloomed.

    Even if you are not a avid birdwatcher definitely bring your binoculars. The other birdwatchers have generally been happy to point out the different birds or where to look for specific species.

    The first time we came the beach and dunes were still open to visitors to hike on designated trails; the piping plovers, Monty and Rose, had not yet arrived. The next visit the whole area was fenced off as the 2 had arrived. Apparently Monty spends winter in Texas and Rose in Florida. They first paired up on Montrose Beach in 2019 making this the 3rd year in a row that they’ve made it safely back to Chicago. They typically arrive within a day of each other. It was a difficult spotting them at first.

    We spotted other plovers on our first visit, Killdeer. In fact one was strutting around in the lawn. Other killdeer were on the beach just in front of the lifeguard building.

    Flocks of migrating double-crested cormorants were flying back and forth along the lakefront on our first visit. Just a few remained upon our return.

    Flocks of ring-billed seagulls thronged the beach but we spotted a red-beaked tern in their midst. Perhaps a Caspian Tern.

    Tree swallows - blue back and wings with white body - were taking advantage of the nesting boxes set out amidst the dunes. On our second visit we watched bank swallows flying in and out of the holes their nesting colony had dug into the side of a sand bank.

    Red-shouldered blackbirds were everywhere. But keep an eye out for their blackbird cousins, the common grackle (bluish head and neck and bronze-black body)and the brown-headed cowbird (brown head on shiny black body).

    The songbirds were more trick to spot, small and flighty, flitting from branch to branch. The “Magic Hedge” is most famous for its warbler population, and we did spot yellow-rump, magnolia, common yellowthroat, redstart, palm, yellow, black-throated blue warblers.

    The most interesting communal sighting was that of a Whippoorwill. Word spread that this nocturnal bird was resting in a particular tree and we made our way there. Given that it was sleeping (or trying to) it was easy to keep in sight once spotted. Good thing too, because its mottled brown plumage made it one of the best-camouflaged of the birds.

    Speaking of camouflaged birds, a female yellow sapsucker was hard to spot against the tree trunk until it moved to the side and was silhouetted.

    Visiting the bird sanctuary incentivized us to learn more about what were looking at. But even if you are not necessarily bird aficionados it is fascinating to hear all the bird calls and see all the birds flying around.

    One more thing; assuming the water is calm be sure to walk out all the way to the end of the fishhook-shaped pier.
    Written 10 May 2021
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
  • Taylor B
    Chicago, IL7,535 contributions
    If you live in downtown Chicago, as we do, you are aware of the hustle and bustle, traffic and noise. Even when you walk through Lincoln Park or Grant Park. Have you been to North Park Village Nature Center lately? Located at 5801 North Pulaski Road in North Park Village, on the city's northwest side, between Peterson and Bryn Mawr, open from 9 to 4 daily, this 46-acre nature preserve features hiking trails, a birding area and a center with educational programs. It also manages an adjacent 12-acre satellite area called Walking Stick Woods, once an unused wet woods that has been converted into defined trails, interesting cultural features and a well-utilized nature play space. The trails allow visitors to stroll through woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna, maybe spot some wildlife or even a rare bird. In the Discovery Room, there is a hands-on table of natural objects and interactive displays designed to associate visitors with the the natural resources in an urban setting. For an hour or two, a visit to North Park Village Nature Center allows visitors to forget they might have to drive home on the Dan Ryan Expressway during rush hour.
    Written 24 October 2020
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
  • Lincoln D
    Pearl, MS60 contributions
    I grew up in Chicago until I was 12 years. I left the West Rogers Park neighborhood in 1974, when my family moved to Southern California. I have very fond memories of Indian Boundary Park. We would go there all the time as children, since it was only 4 or 5 blocks from our house. We would see the animals that were there. Feed the ducks and the deer. Run around the park with our friends. Ride our bikes there. I visited there recently on a business trip to Chicago. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories. What great parks Chicago has. Indian Boundary Park has a lot of memories. My dad passed away in 1997 at the age of 84. He lived in this neighborhood for a majority of his life. His family moved up to Rogers Park from the South Side when he was a small child. I remember him telling me that he fell thru the ice on the pond at Indian Boundary Park ice skating as a child and almost drowned until someone pulled him out. Like a said, a lot of memories.
    Written 18 September 2018
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
  • Annaline
    Park Ridge, IL7,031 contributions
    It is a nice biking trail, however for some unknown to me reason I think there was too much broken glass on it. Is it not cleaned too often? Also information boards are scarce and if they exist they are almost unreadable (painted over with graffiti or just damaged). It would be nice to have more information borads on the way so bikers know where they are going and are not lost (there are some changes on the trail that may be confusing, or trails is ending sometimes and bikers need to stay on the street).
    Written 2 September 2015
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
  • ImmerWandern
    Palos Heights, IL7,227 contributions
    This was our first visit here. We had read of the abundance of waterfowl at Wolf Lake. Most of the lake was frozen over and, at first glance, there did not seem to be much to see. Canada geese grazed on the scant winter grass by the visitors’ center. We drove north past the boat ramp, past the railroad tracks and onto the the elevated roadway along the Illinois-Indiana border to the edge of the. Wolf Lake Industrial Center. We passed several hunting blinds along the way; waterfowl hunting takes place during the fall. There was a fairly large opening in the ice where we spotted a couple of Canada geese, a few Common Goldeneyes and a pair of Mute swans. Then we noticed that the south end of Wolf Lake was had an even larger area of open water that was teeming with birds.

    We drove back all the way to the southernmost parking lot. The open water was still quite a distance from where we stood, and the required the use of spotting scopes, binoculars or powerful zoom lenses to view the waterfowl. There were two species of swans, the common Mute swan (orange bills) and the Trumpeter swan (black bills). There were Canada geese, Herring gulls, and we also spotted a Bald eagle gliding in lazy circles high in the sky. Several duck species spotted: Mallard, Common mergansers, Redhead, Canvasback, Common goldeneye. There were several other birdwatchers with us on the edge of the lake taking in those views.

    This is a state recreational area. Boating and fishing are popular warm-weather activities, apparently. Ice-fishing is possible during winter; there was nobody out on the ice during our visit. The fish found in Wolf Lake include largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, bullhead, carp, walleye, hybrid muskie, and yellow perch. Hunting, as mentioned, takes place in the fall. Of course there are hiking trails.

    We will definitely be back in a few months when the spring migration is in full swing.
    Written 27 February 2022
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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