608 acres | 1.98 miles of trail
Open Daily Sunrise to Sunset (Some sites are subject to Seasonal Closures or closures due to special circumstances).
916 Cold Springs Road, Bull Valley
This picturesque site offers a 2 mile hiking trail and 1.3 mile local horseback trail link, as well as opportunities for picnicking on the observation deck and wildlife watching through viewing scopes. Situated in the upper reaches of the Boone Creek watershed, the 608 acre Boone Creek Conservation Area protects the headwaters, upland recharge areas, wetlands and creek corridors of the greater 13-mile Boone Creek.
The Boone Creek watershed drains roughly 23 square miles of McHenry, Greenwood, Door and Nunda Townships. Seeps and springs from the surrounding hillsides flow year round into the valley that forms the stream bed of Boone Creek, one of the highest quality streams in Illinois. And, within the watershed, over 1,000 acres have been protected thanks to a consortium of state, county, local organizations and passionate residents. Additional protection comes through the Illinois State Nature Preserve, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and private conservation easements.
To date, several known state endangered animal species are protected from having their habitat developed at Boone Creek Conservation Area including the American Bittern, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Osprey, Forster’s Tern, Upland Sandpiper, Blanding’s Turtle, the Slippershell Mussel and the state threatened Black-billed Cuckoo.
Aerial photographs taken in 1939 show the site scattered with oak trees and a vast majority of the interior of the site composed of a large wetland complex. The meandering creek was shown to be ditched and straightened with agricultural practices taking place on the majority of the site. Fields were plowed and planted along the north and eastern edges, and grazing was evident amongst the oaks and hillsides that were too steep to plow, and a series of ponds were dug off Cold Springs Road on the northern quarter. During the 1960s–1990s the area became home to the Bull Valley Hunt Club, a family-owned private club. To accommodate the hunt club clientele, wetlands were dug, diked and dredged to create large water impoundments. Uplands were managed for pheasants, dove, goose and whitetail deer hunting, while ponds, although less than 3 feet deep, provided fishing opportunities.
Today, Boone Creek Conservation Area is comprised of a number of parcels that were purchased by the Conservation District from 1999–2009; funded in part by an IDNR Open Lands Trust Grant Program and an Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Grant.
In 2009, the District began a Master Plan process which involved mapping, natural resource data collection, onsite observations and input from neighbors, public, staff, trustees, and the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission. A site plan was created that balanced the need to protect the vital natural resources as well as the need and desire for educational and recreational amenities. On June 22, 2013 Boone Creek Conservation Area opened to the public offering an array of recreational opportunities including hiking, picnicking, birding, wildlife viewing and a horseback riding trail.