Special Events

Experience McHenry County Conservation District by attending one of our upcoming special events! Click the months below to reveal the events. This page is updated quarterly. 

Due to ongoing concerns with Covid-19 our larger special events may be cancelled, but we still offer plenty of special things to do. Our scheduled fall/winter events are below and will follow current social distancing guidelines.

In addition to these special events, we also offer other seasonal programs. 

Register for a Program



Special Events

Cache Your Way Across McHenry County
Geo-Series: ongoing 
This GeoSeries is specifically designed to turn your next staycation, day trip or geocaching expedition into an extraordinary adventure. Cache Your Way Across McHenry County GeoSeries highlights 15 of the best District spots where gamers will be led along unique trails, under bridges, to historic sites, or in the middle of a majestic oak woodland. At each stop, cachers will be introduced to a variety of interesting facts, fun tidbits, stories, quizzes and a question to answer in your GeoSeries Passport. Those who complete all 15 caches will earn the District’s newest geocoin. A couple of the caches have travel bugs. Please move these bugs along and do not keep them; you will get your own to keep when you successfully complete the tour! Once you complete all the caches, bring your passport to one of our visitor centers to claim a coin; or e-mail a copy to smichael@mccdistrict.org

Download passport and program information.

Challenge 2020: Aug. 2 through Nov. 30
Complete your sheet and claim your 2020 GeoCoin. This year’s theme is mammalsAll caches will be live on geocaching.com. Note: This is a separate program from the Geo-Series above. There are a limited number of coins—first-come, first-served; one coin per household.

Lost Valley Nature Detectives
Self-guided Explorations
Winter is here. But that's no excuse to stay inside! Each month we will post links to virtual Nature Detectives activities and videos filled with things you can do from home! 

Monthly Exploration Topics:

October —Fall Colors
As fall sets in, leaves are fading from green to bright beautiful colors! Do a “Tree Parts Dance” to learn the parts of a tree and make leaf paintings. Go on a fall scavenger hunt at a Conservation Site and see if you can find everything on the Activity Sheet.

November — Winter is Coming!
As the fall season ends, we know that means winter is on its way! Learn what different animals do to prepare for colder months. Conduct experiments to see how some animals adapt to colder temperatures! Finally, bundle up and head outside to embark on a scavenger hunt in your own backyard!

December — Winter Trees
Even though in the colder months most trees lose their leaves, some trees keep their needle-like leaves all year long! Evergreens may not be native to McHenry County, but we still have them in our Conservation Sites. Check out some fun ways to identify them and make a fun craft to bring the Christmas tree spirit to your home!

January — Owls
Most species of owls don’t mind the cold weather and stick around McHenry County all year! Learn about some of the different species of owls that live here through fun activities and make an owl craft so you can have your very own owl friend at home!

February — Whose Scat is That?!
While it may seem that most animals are not around in the winter, we can still see several signs that they are in McHenry County. One main sign is their scat! Learn some fun facts about scat and how to make your own gross scat treat too!

The Big Sit Bird Watching Event

Sunday, October 11, 7:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Powers-Walker House—Glacial Park

Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week at The Big Sit, an annual, international, noncompetitive birding event. The concept is simple: find a good spot for bird watching, sit in one spot for a designated time period, and count all the bird species you see or hear. The Big Sit falls in October when fall migration is in full swing. Gather your closest bird-watching friends for a bird-a-thon, a perfect excuse to share good stories, meet new friends, enjoy the outdoors and appreciate our fine feathered friends. Stop by for a few minutes, stay a few hours or join the whole 10-hour sit. Bring a lawn chair and your binoculars and layered clothing. Hosted by Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge & McHenry County Audubon Society with support from Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
For more information visit Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge–hackmatacknwr.org.

CANCELLED: Living History Event: Twilight at the Farmhouse 

Wednesday, October 14, 6–8:00 p.m.
Powers-Walker House, Glacial Park
No registration required. Drop in any time during event hours.

Enjoy the twilight ambiance of this 1850's house by candlelight and lamplight while enjoying a fall evening viewing the ever-changing colors in the Lost Valley Marsh. Smell the aromas and see what is being baked in the wood-burning stove. We think of candlelight at the end of the day as peaceful, but have you tried doing detail work in dim lighting? See how the early settlers tried to get the remains of their work done at the end of the day.

OAKtober Planting Party! in the Big Woods

Saturday, October 17, Drop-in 1:00–4:00 p.m. 
Marengo Ridge • 2411 N IL Route 23, Marengo

Help restore the Big Woods of McHenry County with a tree planting party in the heart of Marengo Ridge! Help plant 340 oak trees and learn about the District's restoration efforts to restore the oak savanna and woodland that once covered one third of our county. Bring the whole family! Note: It is roughly a one mile hike along a rugged trail out to the planting site. Bring gloves if you have them,

Roving Naturalists

Stop by and visit with one of our Naturalists at a new conservation area each week. Ask questions about what is blooming, animals that are out and about, and get recommendations for a great hike. No registration required. Additional dates in October and November, view the full line up. 
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–Noon:
October 3, Boone Creek, Bull Valley
October 10, Hickory Grove Highlands, Shelter #2, Cary
October 24, Lake in the Hills Fen, LITH
October 31, Pleasant Valley, Woodstock

CANCELLED: Living History Event: Harvest Time in 1858

Sunday, November 8, Noon–4:00 p.m.
Powers-Walker House, Glacial Park
No registration required. Drop in any time during event hours.

Step back in time to the 1850's at harvest time. Try your hand at corn shelling, grinding corn into flour, or making a corn husk or yarn doll. Witness harvest activities like the baking of bread in the wood-burning cookstove and grinding herbs for winter use. Tour the historic farmhouse to learn more about its restoration, or visit with a Cavalry sergeant and his horse as they demonstrate the weapons of the era used to protect these frontier lands.

Roving Naturalists
Stop by and visit with one of our Naturalists at a new conservation area each week. Ask questions about what is blooming, animals that are out and about, and get recommendations for a great hike. No registration required. Additional dates in October and November, view the full line up. 
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–Noon:

November 7, Marengo Ridge, Shelter #1, Marengo
November 14, Boger Bog, Bull Valley
November 21, Harrison Benwell, Wonder Lake
November 28, The Hollows, Lake Atwood Shelter, Cary

Cross-Country Candlelight Ski/Hike
December 18 & 19
Both Friday and Saturday evenings from 5–9 p.m.
Harrison Benwell, Wonder Lake

Don’t miss your chance to cross-country ski on trails lit only by candlelight! Skiers of every experience level and age are welcome, but you must bring your own equipment. Gather around the campfire after your time out on the trail. Trails will be groomed for skiing if there is 4” of snow or more.  No pets please.
Not enough snow? Leave the skis at home and enjoy a candlelight hike, a campfire and the allure of the winter woods. Note: Check Before You Go, cancellations may occur due to weather (if trails are icy/hazardous or the wind chill drops below -20°) or staff emergencies. Check for alerts before you head out.

Seize the Day!
The snow has fallen and it’s time to drop everything and enjoy it! Sign up to receive an e-mail to let you know when and where we will be in the next 24 hours to enjoy the SNOW!!
Will it be…
…a Cross-Country Ski Lesson at Prairieview?
…a Snowshoe Hike at Pleasant Valley?
…Night Sledding at Glacial Park?
Have you ever been frustrated by the fact that there’s no snow when snow programs are planned, but then plenty of snow when they aren’t? We have, too!
In December, January & February staff members will be on call to offer a program or activity when we get that perfect snow. We’ll send a message 24 hours in advance with an invitation to join us when conditions are right!
Sound good? Call (815) 479-5779; or e-mail education@mccdistrict.org.

Christmas Tree Recycling
Dec. 26 –Jan. 15
Drop-off Sites:
• Glacial Park, Ringwood (off Harts Rd. & Route 31)
• Rush Creek, Harvard (twin oaks parking area—west of pond)
Tinsel and decorations must be removed. If trees are transported in a bag, please remove the bag. Commercial drop-offs are prohibited. Trees are processed into mulch, which will be available free of charge at a later date.

In Search of Eagles
Saturday, January 9:

Search for Eagles — 9–10:30 a.m.
McHenry Dam, Algonquin Dam, Carpentersville Dam

Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge,
Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and McHenry County Audubon will be on hand
at locations along the Fox River in Illinois to help you search for eagles. There will be scopes
and binoculars available for use at each location, along with guided activities for children.
Visit the site closest to you or visit them all! Maps to the locations are available on MCCDistrict.org
under special events and on Friends of Hackmatack’s Facebook page @FriendsHackmatackNWR.

“Eagles and Osprey, Back from the Brink”— 1–2 p.m.
Online via Zoom platform. For Ages 14+.Fee: R Free/NR $2.00 Registration is required by 1/7/20. 

Christian W. Cold, retired wildlife technician and educator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Wildlife Management, presents an overview on the biology, life history and current status of bald eagles and ospreys in Wisconsin. He will provide a historical account on the decline and subsequent recovery of birds which experienced a period of reproductive failure due to the indiscriminate use of organochlorine pesticides, and recognize both birds as historical examples of species, which are now valued as living indicators (barometers) of environmental health and vigor.

Cross-Country Candlelight Ski/Hike
January 15 & 16
Both Friday and Saturday evenings from 5–9 p.m.
Marengo Ridge, Marengo

Don’t miss your chance to cross-country ski on trails lit only by candlelight! Skiers of every experience level and age are welcome, but you must bring your own equipment. Gather around the campfire after your time out on the trail. Trails will be groomed for skiing if there is 4” of snow or more.  No pets please.
Not enough snow? Leave the skis at home and enjoy a candlelight hike, a campfire and the allure of the winter woods. Note: Check Before You Go, cancellations may occur due to weather (if trails are icy/hazardous or the wind chill drops below -20°) or staff emergencies. Check for alerts before you head out.

Seize the Day!
The snow has fallen and it’s time to drop everything and enjoy it! Sign up to receive an e-mail to let you know when and where we will be in the next 24 hours to enjoy the SNOW!!
Will it be…
…a Cross-Country Ski Lesson at Prairieview?
…a Snowshoe Hike at Pleasant Valley?
…Night Sledding at Glacial Park?
Have you ever been frustrated by the fact that there’s no snow when snow programs are planned, but then plenty of snow when they aren’t? We have, too!
In December, January & February staff members will be on call to offer a program or activity when we get that perfect snow. We’ll send a message 24 hours in advance with an invitation to join us when conditions are right!
Sound good? Call (815) 479-5779; or e-mail education@mccdistrict.org.

Christmas Tree Recycling
Dec. 26 –Jan. 15
Drop-off Sites:
• Glacial Park, Ringwood (off Harts Rd. & Route 31)
• Rush Creek, Harvard (twin oaks parking area—west of pond)
Tinsel and decorations must be removed. If trees are transported in a bag, please remove the bag. Commercial drop-offs are prohibited. Trees are processed into mulch, which will be available free of charge at a later date.

Cross-Country Candlelight Ski/Hike
February 12 & 13
Both Friday and Saturday evenings from 5–9 p.m.
Prairieview Education Center, Crystal Lake

Don’t miss your chance to cross-country ski on trails lit only by candlelight! Skiers of every experience level and age are welcome, but you must bring your own equipment. Gather around the campfire after your time out on the trail. Trails will be groomed for skiing if there is 4” of snow or more.  No pets please.
Not enough snow? Leave the skis at home and enjoy a candlelight hike, a campfire and the allure of the winter woods. Note: Check Before You Go, cancellations may occur due to weather (if trails are icy/hazardous or the wind chill drops below -20°) or staff emergencies. Check for alerts before you head out.

Seize the Day!
The snow has fallen and it’s time to drop everything and enjoy it! Sign up to receive an e-mail to let you know when and where we will be in the next 24 hours to enjoy the SNOW!!
Will it be…
…a Cross-Country Ski Lesson at Prairieview?
…a Snowshoe Hike at Pleasant Valley?
…Night Sledding at Glacial Park?
Have you ever been frustrated by the fact that there’s no snow when snow programs are planned, but then plenty of snow when they aren’t? We have, too!
In December, January & February staff members will be on call to offer a program or activity when we get that perfect snow. We’ll send a message 24 hours in advance with an invitation to join us when conditions are right!
Sound good? Call (815) 479-5779; or e-mail education@mccdistrict.org.