Grab your binoculars and camera and get ready to explore the beauty within Chicago Southland.
BARTEL GRASSLAND 5683 Flossmoor Road, Tinley Park
Bird and nature enthusiasts will enjoy walking through the open grasslands, listening and looking for a host of birds unique to this region. After several years of agricultural use, the Forest Preserves of Cook County has done restoration work to Bartel Grassland, encouraging many species to return, and it is now recognized by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area for bobolink. Bartel once again serves as a breeding habitat for grassland birds, many of which migrate here from South and Central America every summer. Birders may see bobolink, eastern meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, Savannah sparrow, sedge wren and dickcissel. Look for short-eared owl and northern harriers in the winter.
BURNHAM PRAIRIE NATURE PRESERVE 2866 East 142nd Street, Burnham
The most common species spotted at Burnham Prairie, according to EBird.org, are the red-winged blackbird, chimney swift, mallard and greater white-fronted goose. Burnham Prairie is part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s Bird the Preserve initiative and located in the Chicago Lake Plain Section of the Northeastern Morainal Natural Division. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources it is recognized for its dry-mesic prairie, wet-mesic prairie, wet prairie and savanna communities.
ORLAND GRASSLAND 9601 West 167th Street, Orland Park
A hike through Orland Grassland, at the southern edge of Orland Park, provides expansive views of gently rolling prairie and wetland. The 960-acre site has more than 750 acres of open prairie in which rare grassland birds find needed habitat. The area was once farmland but is now being restored as a grassland complex with prairie, wetlands, open ponds, oak savannas, shrublands and woodlands. Visitors can walk respectfully through the open grassy areas and by the low wetlands that dot the preserve. (Stay to the preserve’s perimeter May though early August, as grassland birds use the interior for nesting during this time.) The Forest Preserves of Cook County are developing a paved trail that will run just inside the perimeter of the preserve. Enjoy the sights and songs of birds seen almost nowhere else. Be sure to bring binoculars or a camera.
BLUE ISLAND WATERFALLS 2251 Fulton Street, Blue Island, 312-751-6633
The Blue Island Waterfalls is one of five Metropolitan Water Reclamation District's (MWRD) waterfalls, which is also called a Sidestream Elevated Pool Aeration (SEPA) station. It was built to improve the water quality and create new life in the Chicago Area Waterway System. The grounds of the stations are used by local municipalities as parks to be enjoyed by the public. Along the banks of the Calumet-Sag Channel in Blue Island is SEPA Station 3, where park visitors can enjoy the grounds for recreation or lounge on limestone benches overlooking the various waterfalls and Western Avenue Bridge. The circular design is divided in half with terraced planters on one side opposing waterfalls on the other side. This station features 5-foot waterfalls.
WORTH WATERFALLS 115th & Harlem Avenue, Worth, 312-751-6633
SEPA Station 4 in the Village of Worth was designed with the theme of "lagoon in a wooded grove" and includes a pavilion, walking/running paths, pedestrian bridges and a scenic overlook on 12.5 acres. There is no fee for photo shoots on this property, but you are required to call in advance to register your date and time. Alcohol is prohibited on MWRD property. Nearby you can play a round of golf at Water’s Edge Golf Club including athletic fields, boat launch and multi-use trails.
LAKE KATHERINE NATURE CENTER & BOTANIC GARDENS, 7402 West Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights, 708-361-1873
One of Lake Katherine's most popular features is the waterfall, which tumbles over four separate falls, travels a distance of over 300 feet and descends approximately 30 feet in height before joining the lake itself. This man-made waterfall attracts a wide variety of animals and plants, and aerates the 20-acre lake, supporting the plant and fish life. Lake Katherine staff dye the waterfall green once a year on St. Patrick's Day to recognize and salute those from an Irish heritage. This dye is not harmful to species dependent on the waterfall for survival, but draws a crowd every year to watch the magical transformation of the waters.
A DAY IN THE GARDEN WALK (June)
Palos Heights Recreation Center, 6601 West 127th Street, Palos Heights, 708-945-6254
The Palos Heights Women's Club presents A Day in the Garden. The day starts off with a deluxe continental breakfast followed with the garden tour. The list of gardens and map is available for pickup at the Palos Heights Recreation Center. Garden Walk will take place rain or shine.
Pullman Visitor Center, 11141 South Cottage Grove, Chicago, 773-568-2441
The event begins at the Pullman Visitor Center, where you will pick up a ticket and brochure/map to begin your step back in time, within the picturesque 1880's era Victorian town. Enjoy a light summer tea on the veranda of the Hotel Florence, before or after you tour six private and public gardens in the Pullman Historic District via a self-guided tour map or with a guided tour group. This event is co-sponsored by the Pullman National Monument and the Pullman State Historic Site.
Lincolnshire Country Club, 390 East Richton Road, Crete, 708-672-9438
The Crete Woman's Club Annual Garden Walk includes seven gardens, from large acreage to smaller cozy gardens and a bonus nature preserve. A garden boutique will also be offered. On preview night, dinner is available at Tavern on the Green inside Lincolnshire Country Club; buffet luncheons are available on walk days 11AM-2PM. Proceeds support scholarship programs.
Mokena Chamber of Commerce, 11104 Front Street, Suite 1B, Mokena, 708-479-2468
This self-guided tour of eight residential gardens locations throughout Mokena. The tour starts at the Mokena Chamber Office where you’ll pick up your swag bag and map. Some locations will have artisans in the yard with various items available for purchase.
South Holland Veterans Memorial Park, 500 East 160th Place, South Holland, 708-339-8753
The annual Garden Walk beings at Veterans Memorial Park. Walk through amazing, creative, and decorative local gardens.
BLUE ISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S HOUSE WALK TOUR (September)
Blue Island Historical Society/Albee House, 13018 Maple Avenue, Blue Island, 708-371-8546
The tour begins at the Albee House where you will receive your tour booklet. Then you'll travel at you own pace to tour designated homes. Event takes place rain or shine and it’s encouraged to wear comfortable shoes.
ANNUAL HISTORIC PULLMAN HOUSE TOUR (October)
11141 South Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago, 773-785-8901
One weekend each year, Pullman residents open their homes to the public for the annual Historic Pullman House Tour. These 130-year-old landmark homes range from executive mansions to 14-foot wide worker's cottages to multi-unit apartments, all with a charm and uniqueness that is part of the Pullman experience.