www.outdoors.chicago.il.us >> The Unofficial Cook County Forest Preserve District Page >> Picnic Maps >>
[CLONK notes: this page contains the general information which is repeated in much the same format on 'Picnic Areas and Trail Map' brochure the Forest Preserve District issues for each of its Divisions. Any information unique to a given Division is handled as a link to that Division's page.]
These forest preserves are yours; and mine, too. They belong to all of the people in Cook County. If I damage or litter them I am hurting your property. If you do so, you are hurting mine. In them we have a place in the country that the richest man does not have and could not buy.
You are invited to use the preserves. That is why they were acquired: for your use and enjoyment and that of generations to come. Protect them and use them wisely. The Board of Forest Preserve Commissioners is authorized by law:
To acquire and hold lands containing natural forests for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauties, and to restore, restock, protect and preserve said lands as nearly as may be in their natural state and condition, for the education, pleasure and recreation of the public.
The forest preserves are not parks. They are sanctuaries of native landscape with places for appropriate kinds of outdoor recreation along the fringes. Most people visit them to have a picnic. As elsewhere in the United States, that is by far the most popular recreational use. Facilities for picnicking have been provided in openings along the 250-odd miles of highway borders, and roadside tables for family groups, but none for the kinds of recreation that properly belong in municipal parks and playgrounds.
The interiors have been made accessible only by walking or by hiking, bicycling and horseback riding along the 150 miles of designated trails. So protected, more than 80 percent of the total area has been kept in a wild or semi-wild natural state; about 60 percent is forested. There are 87 miles of shoreline along the banks of rivers and creeks; many lakes, ponds and sloughs; open fields and prairies: a remarkable abundance and variety of wildflowers and wild- many places of geologic, historic or scenic interest.
Here, people may find peace and relaxation. For those who seek solitude and quiet there are thousands of acres of unspoiled woodlands, meadows and bodies of water. In these spacious surroundings of natural beauty they find freedom and relief from their work and the hurry-burly of city life. They can walk, or fish, or just rest under a tree. They can have fun and adventure the year round; opportunity for hobbies such as nature study and photography; or more strenuous activities such as games, boating, canoeing and winter sports. These are the purposes for which the Forest Preserve District was created.
They are unique and you should be proud of them. Nowhere in the United States is there such a large area of publicly owned native landscape as fine and as readily accessible to so many people. Some part of the preserves is within a 30-minute ride by any citizen in Cook County; for many it is within walking distance.
The larger picnic areas are maintained in a park-like condition but the woods around them, and the interiors, are left untouched. As the older trees die they are allowed to stand, or lie where they fall, furnishing homes and food for countless kinds of animal life and supplying the soil with food that a healthy natural forest must have. There is no control or other management of any wildlife, except fish. Nature, always wise and orderly if left alone, works out her own problems.
Every year, however, in spite of vigilant protection, fires caused by careless picnickers, users of the trails and motorists along the highways, destroy wildflowers, food and cover for wildlife, shrubs, seedlings and even mature trees. Automobiles, which formerly did serious damage, have been restricted to the parking places provided. The wildlife is rigidly protected against hunting, trapping, or any molestation. The picking of wildflowers is forbidden, else they would soon disappear. People are asked to "love 'em and leave 'em."
The greatest problem in a county with so many millions of people -- increasingly difficult as industrial, commercial and residential developments move outward from Chicago to and beyond these reservations -- is to protect and preserve them in their natural state "as nearly as may be" for your recreation and enjoyment.
Freedom and Relief from City Life
The most popular use of the forest preserves, roughly 90 percent, is picnicking. Thousands of people seldom, if ever, visit them for any other purpose. In addition to those by countless family and informal groups, there are thousands of organized picnics. All groups must have a picnic permit. This assigns them to a location which, with the facilities specified, is thus reserved for them on a given date. Since the rule is "First come, first served," most groups find it wise to obtain their permits far in advance. All picnic facilities are furnished for a minimal fee.
Picnic Permit must be obtained from the Permit Clerk at the Forest Preserve District office in the County Building, 118 N. Clark Street, Rm 608, Chicago. Be sure to read and observe the regulations printed on the permit slip. For more options, contact the District.
All picnic areas provide at least the essential facilities: one or more parking spaces, pure potable water, sanitary conveniences, portable picnic tables, receptacles for garbage and trash. and an open place or a meadow for play Many of these areas also have a picnic shelter. Of 180 such areas named and distributed throughout the country, about 70 are heavily used - some too heavily because accessible by public transportation.
There are 2000 other smaller picnic centers more used by family or small group picnics. Many of these are located along roadsides and are used by families avoiding the confusion and noise of crowds. Also, in each of a large number of attractive spots close to highways all over the county, a fixed massive table has been installed for people who want to be alone.
Bring charcoal and a charcoal grill. If you also bring a blanket, or a folding table and folding chairs, and a jug of water, there are a thousand places where you can peacefully picnic and enjoy the out-of-doors.
PLEASE USE THE RECEPTACLES
FOR GARBAGE; TAKE HOME
AND RECYCLE RECYCLABLES
DON'T BE A LITTERBUG
WALKING IS THE BEST
AND CHEAPEST RECREATION
It's good for your body, good for your soul, and a liberal education. Wear stout shoes and rough clothes with a sandwich in one pocket and some fruit or chocolate in another. Take your time. Keep your eyes and ears open. Every place you look there is something to see. Get acquainted with the trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Watch for wild creatures. Sit down in a comfortable place, be absolutely quiet, and you will see plenty of them.
The 150 miles of Forest Preserve Trails have been established for multiple use by hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders -- safe trails thru the woodlands and along the streams so that you may enjoy them.
Des Plaines Division trails
Indian Boundary Division trails
North Branch Division trails
Salt Creek Division trails
Skokie Division trails
Thorn Creek Division trails
Tinley Creek Division trails
RULES FOR HORSEBACK RIDERS
Horseback riders must observe the following rules, which are enforced by Forest Preserve District Police:
BICYCLE RULES OF THE TRAIL
NO SPEED TRAINING OR RACING PERMITTED
WALKERS & JOGGERS
Use the left side of the trail-facing oncoming bicycle traffic
The Best Way to See and Enjoy the Preserves
REPORT ANY FIRE
by telephone to the General Headquarters
In case of emergency, contact the Forest Preserve police at: 1-708-771-1000
[CLONK notes: the phone numbers above are current as of April, 2000. The Forest Preserve police answer the numbers listed outside of normal business hours.]
The one greatest cause of fires is carelessness. An unattended cooking fire, a burning match or cigarette tossed aside can ignite dry vegetation. Uncontrolled wildfire destroys wildflowers, young trees, seedlings and wildlife habitat. The barren soil is then subject to erosion. Be cautious.
Persons believing that they have been discriminated against by the Forest Preserve District on the basis of race, color, national origin or handicap, may file a complaint alleging discrimination with either the Forest Preserve District of Cook County or the Office of Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.
This page is based on a publication of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois, adapted for the web as a public service by CLONK. This web site is unofficial, and not associated in any way with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. CLONK is not responsible for any errors, either in the original publication or in this web version. The information presented here follows the original Forest Preserve District publication as closely as possible, with minor variations such as choice of typeface and added web links. CLONK cautions that items such as names of public servants and telephone numbers are subject to change! This web version was completed Spring, 2000.
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