Hickory Grove Highlands and Lyons Prairie & Marsh

310 + 411 acres | 3.5 miles of trails

Trail Maps:      PDF       AllTrails

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

Hickory Grove Highlands

500 Hickory Nut Grove Road (South side of the street), Cary

Hickory Grove Riverfront
500 Hickory Nut Grove Road (North side of the street), Cary

Lyons Prairie and Marsh
7000 S Hickory Nut Grove Road, Cary

This site is so large that it is actually broken down into three smaller sites (Hickory Grove Highlands, Hickory Grove Riverfront and Lyons Prairie & Marsh). It offers an unusual diversity of habitats and is home to an Illinois State Nature Preserve. 

Hickory Grove Highlands
Hickory Grove Highlands serves as a refuge for northern Illinois wildlife, and provides visitors with opportunities for hiking and horseback riding through beautiful woodlands. Highlands also features interpretive trail signs, two picnic shelters, and a picnic grove. A section of trail is solar lit for part of the year so visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing or hiking in the evening. 

Hickory Grove Riverfront
Riverfront provides anglers the opportunity to bank-fish along the Fox River. A short trail loop, picnic shelter, and group camping area are also available. 

Lyons Prairie and Marsh
Lyons Prairie & Marsh has the distinction of being named as an Illinois State Nature Preserve. Besides providing stunning views, Lyons Prairie and Marsh also offers opportunities for horseback riders and cross-country skiers, as well as anglers who can fish the small 2.5 acre pond. 

Mapping the History of the Land 
For hundreds of years First American, The Potawatomi, Winnebago, and Fox tribes lived in and passed through this woodland area. They would have ate hickory nuts and made acorn flour from the nuts of the oak trees,  gathered food and hunted the deer, rabbit, fox and other animals that lived in surrounding habitats. They would have traveled to the Fox River or a nearby marsh to gather cattails to weave into mats to sit on, sleep on, or cover the wigwam. Survey notes from 1838 referenced the oak-hickory woodland reporting, “Soil tolerably good. Land level, a part of the line swampy; fit for cultivation; timber White Oak, Burr Oak, Black Oak and Hickory.” In 1852, the land was first purchased by George Crabtree and his wife Betsy Hubbard. George farmed the prairie and logged the woodland. With the timber he built his homestead and sold the valuable trees. George retired from farming in 1887, then owning 268 acres.

Throughout the years the property changed hands and up until the 1950s the woodland continued to be grazed by cattle. The cattle nibbled on the undergrowth, keeping it from growing. The older trees that weren’t big enough to be sold as timber or small enough to be eaten by grazing cattle survived to grow up and become the large trees you see today. In 1974, 220 acres that make up Hickory Grove Highlands and Riverfront was acquired. Then, in 1979 the Lyons Family made a generous 332-acre donation, today known as Lyons Prairie and Marsh. Hickory Grove Conservation Area opened to the public in 1981. Subsequent land acquisitions adjacent the original parcels bring the combined open space to 812 acres of protected land.