Fox Bluff

279 acres | 2.5 miles of trail

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Site Hours
Open Daily Sunrise to Sunset (Some sites are subject to Seasonal Closures or closures due to special circumstances).

Cary-Algonquin & Cold Springs Road, Cary 

The Fox Bluff complex includes woodlands, wetlands, fens, wet prairies and 3,530 linear feet of shoreline along the Fox River.  The topography is steep with varying slopes and ravines. The northern portion is currently open to the public for hiking and access to the Fox River.

The southern section is the former 116-acre Camp Algonquin.  The entire 273 acres is currently undergoing a Master Plan process to provide future hiking, fishing and other public amenities.

Fox Bluff Conservation Area is an area rich with history. Some of the more known past peoples, families and features are: The five (5) Native American Tribes Chippewa, Fox, Potawatomi, Sauk, Winnegabo; Ashahel B. Hinsdale purchased 260 acres both east /west of Cary Algonquin Road; Solomon + Elizabeth Hamilton purchased east rocky hillside leading down to the Fox River; Lowe Farmstead; Morton and Jane Weinress Estate; John Plain Recreation Area; Fox Trails Ski, Swim and Tennis Sports Club; The Nevermore (Teen Nightclub); and Harry’s Hopes (Music/Adult Night Club).

The site is recognized as the place chosen by the first white settlers of McHenry County, the Gillilan family. At the time of the Gillilan arrival the family consisted of Samuel (husband), Margaret (wife) and their 8 children. The exact location of their first winter encampment and log home that followed is debated among historians, however, the consensus believes that the encampment and settlement was somewhere within sections 23, 26, or 27 of Algonquin Township. The Gillilan family crossed the Fox River and set-up camp along the west side on November 18, 1834, entering a wilderness only 2 years removed from the end of the Blackhawk Wars, yet still belonging to the Indians according to Federal law.

Tracing its roots back to the 1800s, Camp Algonquin emerged from the Progressive Era as a permanent camp to help treat ill and under privileged women, children, and babies of Chicago. Established on 20 acres located adjacent to the Fox River, the camp was supported by the Chicago Bureau of Charities, Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Tribune, Oak Park churches, and numerous private donors.

In 1910, Jens Jensen, the well regarded landscape architect, was hired to produce a plan for the grounds of Camp Algonquin. During a visit to the camp Jensen shared a story as to why so many of the forest trees were bent over towards the river and not in the direction of the prevailing winds. Jensen goes on to say that this is a frequent feature of trees found in the vicinity of Indian camping grounds and comes from the fact that when the trees were saplings they were used by Indian mothers for the swinging of their papooses. A detailed site plan from Jensen dated February 1911 depicts 16 buildings, swimming pool, council ring, vegetable gardens, native landscaping, pedestrian paths / trails, carriage roads, benches and bridges. The Jensen plan is the earliest known drafted map of Camp Algonquin.

Over the next half century the camp continued to expand with the addition of numerous cottage and support buildings along with programmed services and activities. In the 1980s the camp received significant additions to both building needs and land holdings. Improvements included, a new dining hall, camp office, Activities Center, winterization of several buildings, and the addition of 60 acres north of the existing property holdings. Camp Algonquin exposed children and adults, in many instances for the very first time or at least while only at camp, to activities such as swimming, canoeing, campfires, sing-alongs, and elementary tasks such as chores and scheduling. The most recent focus of Camp Algonquin was, “to enable students to experience transformative education by living and learning together in closeness with the natural environment.” Available curriculums included: environmental studies, team building, and crafts.

In the 1960s a group of businessmen converted the original farmstead and surrounding property into a ski resort equipped with ski runs, tow ropes, lights, and snow making machines. A Swiss-style chalet was built next to a barn within the farmstead. The chalet contained a ski shop, ski school headquarters, restaurant, and cocktail lounge. The remodeled barn contained a ski rental and repair shop, ski patrol headquarters, changing rooms, and nursery. The ski resort continued to operate until the mid 1970s when it was eventually closed and remodeled into a cozy music venue called Harry Hope’s. Performers of the venue included: Muddy Waters, Steve Goodman, and Mary Travers. The club operated until 1981 when it was eventually moved to Elgin. Prior to the closing of the ski resort, the property continued to expand its recreational opportunities with the establishment of the Fox Trails Country Club. The Club underwent numerous name changes over the years, but basically the programming and activities remained similar.

Full History of Fox Bluff Conservation Area

Press Release from  Landmarks Illinois (2014)