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Travel to hot spots for nature fun with the Passport to the Preserves program

Woman using crayon for stamp impression
(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Do you know which Forest Preserve visitor center has a 2,000-gallon aquarium filled with river fish, which one has a tank teeming with turtles, or which one has a live beehive?

Do you know which visitor center sells baits and rents boats or which one has a green roof? 

The Forest Preserve wants you to discover these special places via a free Passport to the Preserves program, which encourages participants to visit five visitor centers and their surrounding preserves from Saturday, April 1, through Thursday, Aug. 31. 

Pick up a passport

To get started, pick up your passport at one of the visitor centers and prepare to travel to hot spots for nature fun. Once you have your passport in hand, visit passport rubbing stations at each visitor center to create a “stamp” impression on the passport with a crayon.

Each site has a different nature-themed stamp. Rubbing stations are located both inside and outside each visitor center, so if you visit the preserve while the visitor center is closed, you can still get your stamp. 

Once you have all five stamp impressions, take your completed passport to the visitor center of your choice to receive a “Take It Outside” pin to adorn a hat, backpack or jacket. The passport program is part of the yearlong “Take It Outside Campaign,” which was launched in January to inspire people to get in touch with nature to reap the physical and mental rewards of being outside.

“So many times, people walk into our visitor centers and they’re amazed by what they see, and they say, ‘I never knew this was here,’” said Cindy Cain, the Forest Preserve's public information officer. “We designed the passport program to encourage people to learn more about all the exciting exhibits, programs and recreational activities each site has to offer. We hope you pick up a passport this spring and travel throughout Will County to discover what you may have been missing or rediscover a favorite destination.” 

Visitor center destinations

Here are the visitor centers included in the passport program, the activities available at each site and the stamp themes:

Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, 25055 W. Walnut Lane, Channahon. This visitor center is set in McKinley Woods and it is an inclusive destination for people of all abilities. Make a waterway on the River Table, visit an interactive mussel exhibit, walk the All-Persons Trail, see the 2,000-gallon aquarium, or observe a variety of birds at the year-round bird bath and feeders. Stamp theme: American lotus. 

Hidden Oaks Nature Center, 419 Trout Farm Road, Bolingbrook. This site is set in Hidden Oaks Preserve. Meet the resident animals, explore interactive exhibits, fish the Hidden Lakes Trout Farm ponds, hike the DuPage River Trail, or experience the outdoor playscape. Stamp theme: oak tree. 

Isle a la Cache Museum, 501 E. Romeo Road (135th St.), Romeoville. The museum is set in Isle a la Cache preserve, which is an island in the Des Plaines river. Exhibits highlight the furbearing animals, Native people and French voyageurs who inhabited the region in the 18th century. Walk inside a wigwam, find the museum’s hidden cache, meet the Blanding’s turtles, try a craft or activity, or explore the outdoor exhibits. Stamp theme: beaver. 

Monee Reservoir Visitor Center, 27341 Ridgeland Ave., Monee. The visitor center is located in Monee Reservoir Preserve, and boating and fishing gear rentals are available there. Sink a line to fish, hit the water in a kayak or canoe, hike the natural surface trail, soak in a sunset on the water, or check out underwater videos and bird spotting scopes. Stamp theme: dragonfly.

Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 S. Dutton Road, Beecher. This visitor center offers nature education opportunities for families, school groups and youth groups, as well as a diversity of habitats at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve. Hike to the big bridge, see the pollinator garden, view the live beehive, explore the nature playscape, or run up or sled down the 40-foot-high hill. Stamp theme: honeybee. 

Don't forget to check online for visitor center and preserve hours before you head out the door. And if you are up for more adventure, check out the yearlong Take It Outside Challenge, which requires participants to complete missions to earn points and win prizes and bragging rights as they head up the leaderboard via the free Goosechase app. 


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