726 acres | 2 miles of hiking trail | 5.7 miles of horse trail
Open Daily Sunrise to Sunset (Some sites are subject to Seasonal Closures or closures due to special circumstances).
20501 McGuire Road, Harvard
Visitors can enjoy hiking 2 miles of looped nature trails, casting a line in the 4-acre, man made pond, camp under the stars at the group campground, reserve the large picnic shelter for your next family gathering, or horseback ride the 5.7 miles of horse trails that transverse through the beautiful woods and open prairie.
Rush Creek Conservation Area is 726 acres and contains a mixture of upland forest, oak and hickory woodlands, wetlands and sedge meadows. In addition, a one-mile section of the 12.5 mile Rush Creek traverses the site prior to entering the Kishwaukee River near the Boone County line. Within the woodlands, a variety of trees including shagbark hickory, aspen, black walnut, basswood, black cherry trees, and red, white, and bur oaks. The strong branches on these trees provide favorable nesting places for larger birds such as red-tailed hawks and great horned owls, while the hollows and holes in the trees provide habitat for smaller wildlife like woodpeckers, screech owls and flying squirrels. Coyote, deer, raccoons, groundhogs, grey squirrels and opossums also live here and their tracks can often be seen along the banks of the pond and creek.
Many shallow, ephemeral ponds exist along the trails. These seasonal wetlands provide crucial habitat for salamanders, Blanding’s turtles, American toads and chorus frogs during the spring and early summer months. Other wetland features throughout the site are sedge meadows or shallow marshes. Native plants such as wild geranium, Solomon’s seal, wild onion, Joe Pye weed, and sedges are becoming more abundant in restored areas at Rush Creek. Several species of wildflowers scatter the forest floor, including May apple, shooting star, violet, and trillium. Other wildflowers in the prairie and wet meadow include sunflower, yellow coneflower, aster, wild geranium, cardinal flower, and marsh marigold.
Most of the area now known as Rush Creek was purchased in 1836 by the Jerome family. It was later sold in smaller parcels to the families of Iverson, Diggins, Burrows, McFadden and Kvarme. These families divided the oak groves that once existed at the western edge of the property into 10-acre woodlot parcels and harvested the wood for fuel for cooking and heating their homes.
Property records note that it was the Diggins family that cleared the open fields that now lie in the center of the site by using teams of horses, while the Burrows brothers created the original fishing pond. Historic documents also note that during WWI walnut trees from this property were cut down to be used for gun stocks. The logs were hauled to Harvard but then never shipped because the war came to an end.
In 1942, eight acres were preserved as one of the earliest wildlife conservation demonstration areas in Illinois through a cooperative effort of the Diggins Estate, the Soil Conservation Service, the Illinois Department of Conservation and the McHenry County Soil and Conservation District. Although non-native, various species of pine trees and multiflora rose were planted to support local wildlife, and can be witnessed throughout the site today. The Conservation District purchased 155 acres from the Burrows brothers in 1974 and expanded the site through subsequent land acquisitions through 1981.