Spring Preserve Challenge

Get outside, get moving and see how many activities you can check off the list

The 2021 Spring Preserve Challenge is our first-ever seasonally themed program designed to get people into the preserves to experience them in new and familiar ways. After a long and cold winter, we are challenging you to explore our preserves and amenities during the month of May. 

With a wide array of activities to choose from, getting out in nature and breathing fresh air is in your future. As you embark on the challenge, don’t just rely on the familiar. Consider checking off at least a few activities outside your comfort zone. 

How to participate

(Photo by Chad Merda)

If you’re up for the challenge, you can choose to complete activities in four categories: fishing, photography, activities and visits. Within these categories, there are a total of 20 activities and you must complete 15 of them during the month of May. Those who successfully complete the challenge by May 31 will receive a Forest Preserve District promotional giveaway. 

More information on the categories and activities included in the challenge is below. You can take photos of yourself along the way and we encourage you to share your experiences on social media (tag us) and submit nature photos for the Preserve the Moment photo contest, which also will start on May 1. 

Once you complete the activities you've chosen, simply fill out the online form. All submissions must be received by 11:59 p.m. on June 1. 



(Photo by Chad Merda)

Fishing is one of the most popular spring activities in the preserves. As fish end their winter rest and begin to spawn, they are hungry and ready to bite! Capture a photo of you and your monster catch (or best catch) from one of the six specified locations and upload it to your submission form!  

Anglers must follow all state and District fishing regulations. Only line fishing is permitted, and anglers may use a maximum of two poles, with no more than two hooks or lures attached to each. Taking frogs, turtles and mussels is prohibited. Swimming, wading and float tubes are prohibited. Persons must be entirely secured in a watercraft (at permitted locations) or on an approved shoreline.

All statewide and Forest Preserve District fishing regulations apply. The District encourages catch-and-release fishing, but should you choose to keep your catch all daily creel and size limits apply. Illinois fishing licenses are required for anyone 16 or older who fishes on a public waterway. Anglers can purchase fishing licenses from Monee Reservoir’s visitor center. 

Below are the designated fishing locations for the Spring Preserve Challenge. For this activity, submit the location at which you caught your fish. You may catch fish at multiple locations to achieve your 15 completed activities.

Hammel Woods 

Hammel Woods – DuPage River Access offers shoreline fishing along the DuPage River. You can also launch a canoe or kayak from the  launch along the DuPage River. No launch pass is required. 

Lake Chaminwood Preserve 

Lake Chaminwood Preserve offers access to shoreline fishing on two lakes. The preserve also allows for the launch of small fishing boats, and there is no launch fee. However, only watercraft that can be carried on top of a vehicle are permitted because there is no boat trailer parking at the preserve. 

Lake Renwick Preserve 

Lake Renwick – Turtle Lake Access is great for catching bluegill, sunfish, channel catfish and bass at its two fishing lakes: Turtle Lake and Budde Lake. Only shoreline fishing is permitted.

Monee Reservoir 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks Monee Reservoir with bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass and channel catfish. 


Fishing licenses can be purchased at the visitor center, and fishing poles are available for rental. The launch of personal fishing boats is not permitted at the preserve, but fishing is permitted from rental rowboats. Life vests, oars and paddles are included with the rental. Trolling motors, trolling motor batteries and anchors are also available for rental.

Rock Run Rookery Preserve 

Rock Run Rookery Preserve has a 13-acre lake and an 84-acre lake. Shoreline fishing opportunities can be found along a 0.41-mile paved tail along the 84-acre lake. 

Small fishing boats, kayaks and canoes can be launched from the boat launch. No launch fee is required. Boats are only permitted in the larger lake on the east side of the preserve. The 13-acre west lake offers shoreline fishing opportunities and has a dedicated fishing pier.

Whalon Lake 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks Whalon Lake with bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, channel catfish and walleye, and shoreline fishing is permitted around the 80-acre lake.


(Photo by Anthony Schalk)

What better excuse to get outside and enjoy nature than taking photos of spring as it re-emerges all around us? Take this opportunity for some leisurely exploration of a beautiful preserve and look for some of the specific items listed below.

For this activity, submit your photo and location. As you take your photos, make sure you also post them to social media and tag the Forest Preserve District. You can also enter them in the District’s Preserve the Moment photo contest, which will start on May 1.

Blue bird

Just like red birds, several different blue birds call Will County home, both migratory species and year-round residents. The preserves offer ample opportunities to snap a photo of a beautiful blue avian friend. Species you might see include blue jays, great blue herons and eastern bluebirds, among others. Some of the more popular places to catch a glimpse of a blue-hued bird include Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Lake Renwick Preserve — Copley Nature Park and McKinley Woods. 

Spring wildflower 

Wildflowers begin blooming in April, but May is still a great time to snap a shot of some of our lovely spring wildflowers. Many preserves are great spots to find beautiful blooms, but the most popular include Messenger Woods Nature Preserve, Messenger Marsh and Hickory Creek Preserve. Some of the flowers you may see in bloom at this time of year include blue-eyed Mary, hepatica, showy trillium, wild geranium and Virginia bluebells. 


Prickly pear cactus

Did you know Will County has a native cactus? The sandy soils of Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve are the perfect habitat for the prickly pear cactus, which blooms from May through July.  

On a bridge

The forest preserves are home to many beautiful bridges. From old railroad lines to interstate crossings, there are many different types of architectural bridges where you can take a selfie!


Some good locations to choose from include the old railroad bridge over the Kankakee River in Custer Park along the Wauponsee Glacial Trail, the big bridge in Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve along the Plum Creek Greenway Trail and the metal bridge at Schneider’s Passage along Centennial Trail. 


(Photo by Chad Merda)

One of the best ways to enjoy the Forest Preserve District is through recreational activities, which offer countless opportunities to get outside and experience nature. To complete this portion of the challenge, follow the submission details listed for each activity. This is a perfect time to take some notes and share your experience in written form.  

Many of these activities can be accomplished in conjunction with other activities, so it’s a great chance for you to get closer to completing the Spring Preserve Challenge! One note: While using the trails, be aware of other trail users and your personal safety.

Hike a natural surface trail 

Experience nature along one of the Forest Preserve District’s natural surface trails. Some trails to consider include those at Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve, Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Messenger Woods Nature Preserve, Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve, Sugar Creek Preserve and Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve.

For this activity, submit the date and the name of the trail where you hiked along with some observations you made.

Bike a regional trail

Among the most popular activities for trail users is cycling. The opportunity to move at a good pace through the trail system is made easier when you use a bicycle. For this challenge, use one of the regional trails crisscrossing the preserves and log some miles. 

Then, submit the date, the name of the trail where you biked and some observations you made.


Picnic at a shelter

Grab your lunch or dinner and head out to a preserve for a picnic. With shelters and groves perfect for an enjoyable outdoor meal, the preserves are perfect for your next family outing or celebration. One note: A permit is required for all gatherings of more than 25 people.

For this activity, submit the date and location of your picnic, the meal you ate and some observations you made.

Kayak or canoe at a preserve

Boating in the preserves is an activity that continues to increase in popularity. With several different locations where you can launch a kayak or canoe or rent one, this challenge is designed to get you out on the water. 


The District has canoe/kayak launches at Hammel Woods – DuPage River Access, Hammel Woods – Route 59 Access, Riverview Farmstead Preserve, McKinley Woods – Frederick's Grove, McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove and Isle a la Cache. Kayaking and canoeing are also permitted at four of the District’s fishing lakes: Whalon Lake, Rock Run Rookery Preserve, Lake Chaminwood Preserve and Monee Reservoir. Don’t have your own kayak or canoe? The District rents kayaks at Monee Reservoir, and you can rent through Naperville Kayak at Whalon Lake.

Kayakers and canoers must follow all District rules and regulations on the water. All Illinois Department of Natural Resources watercraft regulations are enforced in the preserves. Children under the age of 13 must wear personal flotation devices in all instances when on water. Individuals must be 12 years old or older to launch a personal canoe or kayak. Those younger than 18 years of age must also be accompanied by an adult on the water.

For this activity, submit the date and location of your water excursion and some observations from your experience.

Go camping at a District campsite

There are few ways better to reconnect with nature than by camping. The District offers primitive campsites at five preserves across the county: Forked Creek – Ballou Road Access, Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Hammel Woods – DuPage River Access, McKinley Woods – Frederick’s Grove and Messenger Woods Nature Preserve. Each site has access to fire pits, accessible latrines and a water fountain or hand pump (not available during winter months). Overnight stays require a permit, which must be obtained no less than two business days prior to the reservation.

Don’t have your own camping gear? No problem! The Forest Preserve District offers gear through its No Gear, No Problem program. Rental gear includes tents, sleeping bags, lanterns and cooking kits.  

Attend a public program

The Forest Preserve District offers a variety of programs throughout the year. These include smaller, education-based programs as well as larger community events. Through pubic programs, you can learn about wildlife, natural habitats, recreation opportunities and more.

You can check the schedule of upcoming programs on our Event Calendar. Please note that some programs require registration.

For this activity, submit the date, program you attended and feedback regarding the program.


Snapper Pond, which is directly behind Plum Creek Nature Center. (Photo by Chad Merda)

The Forest Preserve District has several magnificent facilities for the public to visit, and each corner of Will County is fortunate to have one, each with its own twist. Experience the French fur trade at Isle a la Cache Museum, explore nature and wildlife with your little ones at Plum Creek Nature Center, grab your fishing pole and try to catch the big one at Monee Reservoir or check out all the birds and wildlife that hang out where the waters meet at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.

Isle a la Cache Museum 

Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville transports visitors back to the 18th century, when Illinois Country was home to French voyageurs and Potawatomi. While at the museum, feel the softness of a beaver pelt, see canoes built of birch bark and walk inside a wigwam. The museum is also home to our resident state-endangered Blanding’s turtles. Don’t forget to venture outside to be dazzled by the wildlife of a vibrant forest preserve, including migratory songbirds, mink and turtles.  

For this activity, submit the date of your visit and a fun fact you learned while at the museum.

Monee Reservoir 

Monee Reservoir in Monee is a great place for fishing. The visitor center has a concessions stand where you can purchase a fishing permit, buy bait, rent a boat or a fishing pole or buy a snack.  

For this activity, submit the date of your visit and the name of your favorite snack sold at the concessions stand. 

Plum Creek Nature Center 

Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township is a great place to take children to learn about nature. Kids can romp around Spot’s Playground, visit the pollinator garden and check out the bird observation areas. Don’t forget to sneak a peek at our resident reptiles and indoor nature exhibits.  

For this activity, submit the date of your visit and the name of one of the resident reptiles at Plum Creek Nature Center.

Four Rivers Environmental Education Center 

Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon is situated where the Des Plaines, DuPage and Kankakee rivers meet. The newest of the Forest Preserve’s visitor centers, it’s an ideal spot for birders to make fantastic avian finds. A model of green architecture, the visitor center provides opportunities to explore fascinating nature exhibits and offers comfortable, scenic spots to rest. Four Rivers is also one of the top wedding venues in the county.

For this activity, submit the date of your visit and your thoughts on the facility.

(Lead image via Shutterstock)