A 1.7 mile looped hiking trail runs through restored prairie and woodland or just a short .5 mile looped from the parking lot to around the pond. An early morning parking lot near the entrance off Johnson Road was included for those who want to hike before 8 a.m.
The focal point of Winding Creek Conservation Area is the oak grove remnants. Restoration work in the months to come will work to re-create some of the woodlands to its original size. In addition the Conservation District will reseed former agriculture fields back to native landscape, conduct stream bank stabilization, and create an overall wildlife refuge south of Nippersink Creek. Winding Creek serves as a buffer from negative impacts from any future encroaching development for the high-quality creek. The continued preservation of this creek corridor is critical to maintaining the health and habitats of plant life and wildlife on-site and downstream. Moreover preservation efforts aid in the protection of the greater watershed and connected water bodies such as the Fox River.
Future improvements on the site may include adding additional nature trails and secondary loops, and potentially an elevated boardwalk system along the northern bank of Nippersink Creek.
Historically, in the early nineteenth century there was a place known as Bailey’s Grove which encompassed 1,000 acres of nearly continuous woodland. As European settlers ventured into northern Illinois, the grove was reduced to approximately 150 acres of scattered timbered fragments interspersed with cleared groves and farm fields.
Like most properties in McHenry County, a majority of this site was used for agricultural production. Previous owners who resided here in 1970s & ‘80s fondly referred to their place as Will-O Bank Farm, and documented that corn and soybeans grew on the property and prior to their arrival, cows pastured in the woods where no new trees survived their foraging. In 1973, they didn’t own any cows and thus the oaks reseeded themselves. At that time, the woods were included in the Illinois Conservation Department’s Acres for Wildlife program.