Perched in the center of a three-mile radius, High Point Conservation Area boasts the highest glaciated point in Illinois at 1,189’ above sea level. This 253 acre oak and hickory savanna and ephemeral wetland complex mix, located between Reese and Wright Roads in Alden Township, creates attractive habitat for many savanna and declining grassland bird species, such as the bobolink and meadowlark. Fifty-two species of birds, hawks and waterfowl have been spied within its boundaries, including Sandhill Cranes, snipes, wood ducks, killdeer, American woodcock, Baltimore Orioles and barred owls.
High Point Conservation Area provides hikers with a quite respite from which to enjoy the outdoors. Roughly 1.25 miles of looped nature trails provide ample opportunity for visitors to appreciate the scenic views and observe wildlife in the woodlands and meadows.
Protecting the Land
In 2006, the District purchased 203 acres and in 2007 acquired another 49 acres. Restoration work began immediately removing dense buckthorn, garlic mustard, and box elders, which made for native wildflowers seeds which lay dormant and were awaken on the woodland floor. In July, 2008 staff also sowed 118 acres of former agricultural fields with prairie seed. The area around High Point contains about 70 vernal ponds, hosting one of the highest concentrations of ephemerals wetlands in the Midwest. These spring ponds provide necessary breeding areas for amphibians and reptiles. These ponds cannot support fish because they dry up in the summer; instead they provide critical habitat for frogs and salamanders that need water to reproduce, lay eggs, and grow through the tadpole phase. Without fish to prey on them, these amphibians thrive.
Gracing the woodland floor and restored sedge meadow areas, 108 native plant species thrive including March phlox, Turk’s cap lily, downy gentian, Solomon seal, May apple and wild bergamot, geranium, sweet potato and strawberry.
The appeal to protect this property was enhanced by the amount of dedication by the surrounding landowners to conservation. Since 2004, neighbors have committed half of their 800 private acres, within a five-mile radius, to restoration. Additional, roughly 60 acres of private lands adjacent the site are being permanently protected through conservation easements with the assistance of the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, another 60-acre tract has received a state Land and Water Reserve dedication, and two additional properties have been designated as Illinois State Natural Area Inventory sites. High Point marked the 31st site with improved amenities open for the public to enjoy.