The buzz

Preserves We Love: Rock Run Rookery Preserve, for mother-son bonding time

A woman holds her young child while on a long wooden bridge.
Digital and print marketing specialist Katie McCollum and her son Mason enjoy Rock Run Rookery Preserve. (Photo by Chad Merda)

About this series: The Will County forest preserves mean many things to many people, including Forest Preserve District staff. Some of us enjoy the peace and tranquility of a particular preserve, while others among us enjoy the bustling feel of some of our more well-traveled trails. For some, the work we've done in the preserves is meaningful and fulfilling. "Preserves We Love" allows Forest Preserve staff to expound on their favorite preserve and why it's special to them. In this edition, digital and print marketing specialist Katie McCollum tells us why she loves Rock Run Rookery Preserve. 

Water views. Bald eagles. A super cool boardwalk. These are a few reasons Rock Run Rookery Preserve tops the list as one of my favorites. I don't get to venture away from my desk too often, so my pick is more personal than work-related, but the preserve has given me unforgettable moments with my son that I will cherish forever.

I had my son in the summer of 2021. I was on maternity leave as a first-time mom. For some, motherhood comes naturally, but for me, I was struggling, especially at the beginning. I've read articles about how nature can do wonders for your mental health, so I thought a day in the great outdoors would do me good.

I knew which forest preserve I wanted to visit, Rock Run Rookery. As I mentioned, it can be a hot spot for bald eagles, and any chance I can see those regal beauties in the wild would be a highlight of my day. But other than that, the preserve also offers a short, paved trail, and it's a close drive for me — two major pros when planning a trip with a newborn.

I was nervous, though. What if my son cries the whole time? What if he gets too cold? What if he hates being in the stroller? Concerns aside, I put on my "big girl pants" and headed to the preserve anyway.

It was AMAZING! I remember it was a warm fall day. The leaves were starting to turn, people were fishing and the water looked so beautiful. Halfway through the walk, my son fell asleep in his stroller, so I seized the opportunity to sit near the water and relax. I felt so at ease, and my son looked so peaceful asleep in his stroller that I remember thinking to myself, "You got this!"

Fast forward to now: My son is a toddler, and I'm more confident being a mom. We try to visit the preserve once a month, and every time we go, we have so much fun together. He says things like "blue," "green" and "wa-wa" during our walks there. He also likes to hang out on the boardwalk and watch the fish jump. He even laughed at a muskrat that was swimming near us one time, which, of course, made me laugh. For me, the preserve is a special place.

To all the moms and dads out there, I highly recommend going on a nature escape every so often, whether it be Rock Run Rookery, a local park or any of our other forest preserves. It has certainly helped me deal with some of the stress of parenthood.

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