Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hiking at Spring Valley Nature Center

River at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg

Spring Valley Nature Center provides us with a natural respite tucked away in suburban Schaumburg. The variety of ecosystems present means that the preserve is quite dynamic and always changing. We love to visit throughout the year to observe these changes!


Children's Learning Garden at Spring Valley Nature Center
Children's Learning Garden 
On some visits, we begin our exploration at the Nature Center. The Nature Center has plenty of hands-on activities for families. A greenhouse section provides a home to a few turtles which are always fun to discover. Behind the Nature Center, visitors will find bird feeders that usually have a few feathered friends and a children's learning garden. There also is a silo that you can climb for some views of the prairie.

Prairie plants including coneflower and milkweed in the prairie of Schaumburg, Illinois
Prairie plants including coneflowers and milkweed
During our most recent visit, we began walking through the prairie. There are multiple trails allowing you to explore the prairie, the wetlands, the forest and the farm. Various markers along the paths will help guide you. Prairie burning is essential to the health of the prairie ecosystem. Spring Valley holds a prairie burning each spring. The event provides respect and understanding of the ecosystem's natural process. I highly recommend visiting during the burning!

Lily pads in the pond at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg
There is a frog on one of these lily pads. Can you find him?
After wandering a bit through the prairie, we observe along the lake or stream looking for wildlife. We often find frogs, turtles, ducks and geese. Other wildlife can often be seen--we have even seen an otter at Spring Valley!

Barn at Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg, Illinois
Barn at Volkening Heritage Farm
We continue our meander through the woods, ending up at the Volkening Heritage Farm which is an 1880's German farm. As a living farm, visitors encounter various farm animals. The farm is open 10AM-4PM Tuesday-Sunday April 1-November 19. There are quite a few fun events hosted on the farm like a Country Fair, a bonfire, Spring on the Farm and more. If you walk through the farm, there is a path to the farm's parking lot. The path crosses a river and you can sometimes see wildlife there. We didn't take this path on this visit but have in the past.

Blending of cattails and woods at Spring Valley Nature Center
Melding of ecosystems--cattails and woods!
After a spin around the farm, we make our way back to the Nature Center. There are various trail options. Sometimes we take the more wooded and sometimes we opt to go back towards the lake. The wooded area is a bit more secluded so you may see more wildlife.

Milkweed at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg provides a host for monarch butterflies
Milkweed


Located right in the Chicago suburbs, Spring Valley Nature Center provides a much needed and convenient escape. Because of its proximity to shopping, we can squeeze in a visit during errands. The Nature Center will be adding a new play area in the coming months and will be fun for families to discover. A slice of natural heaven!

To know:
  • There are restrooms at the Nature Center and on the farm.
  • Spring Valley has a wealth of camps that help children stay connected with nature. My daughter has taken a few and learned a lot! 
  • In the winter, you can snowshoe when there is at least 4 inches of snow on the ground. Snowshoes are available.
  • There is a gift shop in the Nature Center which has some useful books and even sells local honey and maple syrup from the preserve. There is also a gift shop on the farm.
  • Bison's Bluff Nature Playground is slated to open the end of 2016.
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