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Where's Willy? Scavenger Hunt challenges you to find our mascot

(Photo by Chad Merda)

The Forest Preserve District's furry woodchuck mascot, Willy, has a fun summertime caper for families to experience in August. 

He's hiding in four preserves and you can search for him at each site through Aug. 31. Find the Willy cutout at each preserve, snap a photo, or better yet a selfie, and then upload all four pictures at the same time to the District's website. The first 100 submissions will receive a kite. Photos must be submitted by Aug. 31, and the deadline to pick up a kite at a Forest Preserve visitor center is Sept. 15.

“We wanted to do a fun activity to get people out in the preserves,” said Jen Guest, the Forest Preserve’s recreation coordinator. “Who would be better to help lead the fun than our beloved mascot, Willy the Woodchuck? He left some clues behind in his den to help find him while he is out exploring. Join his forest preserve adventures as you follow the clues leading to some of his favorite nature hangouts.”

The preserves where Willy is hiding out and the clues to help find him are listed below. The clues also can be found by scanning the QR code on signs at the four preserves. The code will go live Aug. 1 when the scavenger hunt begins. 


Hickory Creek Junction, Frankfort Township

  • Look for the picnic shelter where I stopped to eat a snack. When you see it, head right to the big map on the information board.
  • On the big map find Hickory Creek Junction. Once you find it on the map, look for the brown bridge that crosses the creek in this area. You will have to cross it to find me!
  • Walk up the paved trail until you see the Hickory Creek Bikeway sign. Once you get to the sign, head left down the trail.
  • Keep following the paved trail as it rolls up and down the gently sloping hills.
  • Soon you will enter a wooded area along the trail. You will see a bench where I stopped to take a nap. Zzzz.
  • When I woke up, I noticed a bridge nearby. I knew I needed to explore it!  
  • As I headed over to the bridge, I paused to check out the beautiful flow of Hickory Creek.
  • After the bridge, I kept hiking ahead. Soon I saw a yellow trail sign. Keep to the right of the trail because a biker may be coming fast down the hill ahead. One almost ran over my paw!
  • Soon I saw a wide patch of mowed grass on the right side of the trail.
  • Hike up the trail and look for the bench where I took a rest. You are getting so close to finding me!
  • Guess what? I’m nearby, look for me in a tree!   

(Paved trail with hills. Approximately 1.3 miles round trip.)

Hammel Woods – Route 59 Access, Shorewood

  • Can you see the picnic shelter where I had a snack? It’s called Hidden Shelter. Near the parking lot is an information board with a big map. Go check it out! I used this map to start my journey.
  • I started hiking across the parking lot from the big map toward the woods. You will see a sign that says, DuPage River Trail. If you found the sign marker, you are ready to follow my steps. 
  • At the DuPage River Trail sign, start walking 15 feet to where the trail makes a "T." When you get there, go straight into the woods on the natural dirt path.  
  • This is the same path I hiked. Very soon you will come to a “Y” in the trail.
  • Head left at the “Y” in the trail. This trail is elevated.
  • You will come to a big tree where the trail goes in all directions. I was so confused when I got here. Look around for the metal stairs. That’s where I decided to explore.
  • I took the stairs down into the ravine.
  • Then I crossed the bridge and headed up the stairs to the left.
  • When you get to the top of the hill, look right to see a big branch that bends over the trail. Follow the trail in that direction. 
  • I walked under the big bent branch and headed straight down the trail.
  • Do you see a pile of large rocks? Stop there to look below, you will see the DuPage River.
  • Guess what? Look around, I’m hiding nearby.  
  • Can you find me? I am in a tree!   

(Natural surface trail with hills. Approximately 0.5 mile round trip.) 

Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Crete Township

  • I was playing on the giant hill at Goodnow Grove. The hill is near the Nature Center parking lot. This is where you should start your journey. 
  • I got thirsty, so I ran to the drinking fountain near the hill. Can you find it?  
  • After you get a drink, look around for Plum Creek Nature Center. That is where I headed next.
  • I walked by a giant salamander. Did you see it too? How cool!
  • On the porch at the entrance to Plum Creek Nature Center, look for the giant map on the wall. Can you find Squirrel Tree House on the map? I couldn’t wait to find it.
  • Follow the map to find Squirrel Tree House nearby.
  • Once you are at the tree house, look around. Can you find the fire pit in the distance? Look just past the fire pit to where the trails cross each other. Head straight toward the picnic tables just after the trails cross.
  • Did you make it? The trail sign should say, “Snapper Pond Trail.” This is the trail I explored.
  • I followed the paved path to the left. You should too!
  • When the trail makes a “T,” go downhill to the right. Stay on the paved trail.
  • Did you get to the wooden boardwalk yet? I crossed it to keep my paws dry from the wet ground below.  
  • Keep going on the trail, you will pass a bench where I took a rest.
  • Stop at the deck and take in the view of Snapper Pond. 
  • Do a 360-degree turn and stand on the deck. See if you can spot me! I am in a tree nearby.

(Paved trail. Approximately 1 mile round trip.)

McKinley Woods - Frederick’s Grove, Channahon

  • Start your adventure in the lower parking lot of Frederick's Grove.
  • Look for the red water pump where I washed my paws.
  • Check out the stone shelter, where I had a picnic and looked at the water in the canal.
  • There is a natural trail nearby that leads into the woods. If you are in the shelter facing the red pump, the trailhead is to the right. Look for the trail sign.
  • Make sure you are at the Heritage Trail. Do you see that name on the trail sign? This is the trail I explored.
  • Keep following the trail, and as you hike you will see the canal and the river to the right.
  • I crossed a small footbridge.
  • After a bit, the trail comes to a “Y.” I stayed to the right.
  • Soon I crossed another small footbridge. 
  • Keep hiking, you’re doing great! Look at how beautiful the river is from this point of view.
  • Soon you will arrive at a spot on the trail and not know which way to go. There are so many ways. What should you do?  
  • Stop and look around. I am hiding near you!

(Natural surface with hilly uneven terrain. Approximately 0.65 mile round trip.)


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