Wild Things: The District's First Forest Preserve

DuPage County’s first forest preserve — York Woods in Oak Brook — was bought 100 years ago so that 12th Street (Roosevelt Road) could be extended from Chicago to Wheaton. There was no Oak Brook Center, no strip malls, no suburban sprawl. When York Woods was bought, DuPage County’s population was about 33,000, compared to 933,000 today.

Nestled in the southwest corner of Roosevelt and York roads, the 70-acre preserve provides a nice green respite for visitors from the concentrated businesses, shopping centers and neighborhoods on the east side of the county. Reaching the forest preserve from the south requires an extra bit of navigation, though. Traffic on northbound York cannot turn left onto Frontage Road, so drivers have to go to the interchange at Roosevelt Road and follow the signs back to southbound York.

The preserve has about a mile of asphalt-paved trail running through it, lined by stands of 100-year-old oak trees that create a tunnel-like effect over the trails. One of the trails that cuts through York Woods is the 32-mile Salt Creek Greenway Trail, which runs from Busse Woods Forest Preserve in Elk Grove Village to Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield. 

The picnic grove at the south end of York Woods is one of the county’s oldest. On weekdays office workers spend their lunch hours at this end of the preserve. A 100-person picnic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s is surrounded by 3 acres of mowed grass dotted with picnic tables and shade trees. Groups can reserve the shelter by calling Visitor Services at 630-933-7248.

The century-old stands of bur and white oak attract northern orioles, cedar waxwings, warbling vireos, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, great horned owls, indigo buntings and white-breasted nuthatches.

For more information and history about York Woods, read this Conservationist story.

District senior ranger David Sima talks about York Woods on Wild Things on WDCB Radio (90.9 FM).  

   

Pickerel Lake at Pratt's Wayne Woods.

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