Lake in the Hills Fen

408 acres | 1.3 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).

1500 Jefferson Street, Lake in the Hills

Lake-In-The-Hills Fen Conservation Area is a 229-acre upland/wetland complexwhere dry gravel prairies, sedge meadows, Crystal Creek, and a rare  hanging graminoid fens provide diverse habitat. Directly adjacent to the Conservation Area is the 207-acre Lake in the Hills Fen State Nature Preserve. While McHenry County Conservation District manages the entire 436-acre complex, the State Nature Preserve is co-owned by the Village of Lake in the Hills and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. When combined, Lake-In-The-Hills Fen Conservation Area boasts 436 acres of scenic beauty and natural diversity where visitors can gain an appreciation for native landscapes.

Visitors will be immersed in one of the county’s rarest natural landscapes. Preserving the health and water quality of this natural landscape is critical to this site, thereby as part of the stormwater management, a series of rain gardens and bio-swales planted with all native plant species are part of the design.

A touch of wild in burgeoning suburbia — From the center of the site, surrounded by gravel hills and overlooking lush green vegetation of the wetlands, it is possible to feel a sense of stepping back in time. Both the dry prairies and wetlands are dominated by native grasses interspersed with a rich diversity of rare wildflowers such as Hill’s thistle, prairie smoke, prairie gentian and leadplant. This picturesque complex of morainal ridges is surrounded by depressional areas that support high quality wetlands. Over 426 plant species thrive here and the site supports 21 state endangered or threatened plant and animal species. Closer to the creek, sedge meadows provide a rich habitat for numerous butterflies like the rare Baltimore Checkerspot and birds such as the sora rail, yellow-headed blackbird, marsh wren and common snipe. Preservation of this creek corridor is critical to maintaining movement corridors on which much of the area's local wildlife depends.

Hanging Fens - Large gravel deposits left by the glaciers allow rain water to percolate down until it reaches a less permeable layer, usually clay. Within LITH Fen there are several places where the clay layer is exposed and the water is able to “seep” out. Unlike single-source springs, seep water exits the ground all along the line of the exposed clay. When the exposed clay layer lies along a hillside or near the top of a hill, the emerging water from the seep runs downhill. These geological features are called “hanging fens,” designating a wetland on a slope. Lake-in-the-Hills Fen has nine seep locations and eight of them include hanging fens.

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