Lost Valley Visitor Center
April – October
Daily 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Nov. – March
Daily 9 a.m.– 4 p.m.
Closed: (2020) Jan. 1, Feb. 17
Register for a program or event at Lost Valley Visitor Center.
The Lost Valley Visitor Center opened to the public in August 2010. This 28,450 square foot facility hosts a number of environmental education programs, workshops, camps and special events. An exhibit room, drop-in library and research library (available by appointment) is open daily. The facility is also a regional center for the study of natural resources, housing under one roof the District’s Land Preservation and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Education Staff, the Research Field Station, the District’s ecological data bases, resource library and map room, Restoration Internship Program and the People and Nature Certificate Program. In addition, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and the McHenry County Conservation Foundation have offices in the building.
Located in the geographic center of Glacial Park near the existing trail system, the Lost Valley Visitor Center is perched on the glacial moraine overlooking the Nippersink Creek valley. Glacial Park has long been considered one of the jewels of the county’s open space holdings, characterized by its rolling prairie, wetlands, delta kames, oak savanna and the tranquil presence of Nippersink Creek. Encompassing 3,200 acres, Glacial Park is the District’s most well known conservation area, visited annually by more than 64,000 individuals. It supports nine miles of snowmobile trails, six miles of hiking trails, and four miles of horse trails, contains a five mile segment of the regional Prairie Trail and offers canoeing and fishing in Nippersink Creek. It contains over 400 acres of dedicated nature preserve; harbors 18 state listed endangered and threatened species; and is listed as one of the top five areas to view migratory wetland birds in the region.
The original building was a home built by Frank Howard as part of the Hickory Creek Farms operation in the late 1950's. From the late 1960's until 1986 the property was a private residence. In 1986, the parcel, along with 1,100 acres north of Glacial Park was purchased by Comdisco Corporation and opened as Tamarack Hunt Club and Lodge. During this period, the grounds and structures were renovated and expanded by Comdisco. They operated it as a company retreat center, which included 20 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining area, meeting rooms, lounge, sauna, and swimming pool. In 2001, the corporation added a large conference room to the east end with additional bedrooms on the second floor.
During an economic downturn in the early 2000's the hunt club and the lodge were sold to a development corporation. In 2006, the Conservation District acquired the former lodge and retreat center from the developer. Its location as a 34-acre inholding within Glacial Park, as well as the interconnected hydrologic systems and oak savannas, made it a long sought after acquisition.
Building A "Green" Future
A significant feature of the Lost Valley Visitor Center is its green technologies. When renovating the building, the District did its best to reduce the use of traditional energy sources, to preserve and protect the area's clean water supply, and to reduce the use of the earth's resources. From energy efficient lighting and geothermal heating and cooling to daylight harvesting and the installation of rain gardens, the District took every measure to achieve LEED® Gold certification. Throughout the building interpretive signs point out these features as well as provide ideas on how they might be incorporated in your own home. Check out our Lost Valley Visitor Center Fact Sheet to find out more.
Ongoing Programs at Lost Valley Visitor Center
Lost Valley Nature Detectives (self-guided explorations)
It’s a beautiful day for hiking, bird watching, bug catching, or puddle stomping! Start your adventures at Lost Valley Visitor Center where each month a new topic is featured. Indoor displays and activities will get you ready for an outdoor exploration. Check out the free exploration backpack to borrow binoculars and field guides and grab a scavenger hunt to help you search the wild spaces of Glacial Park.
Lost Valley Visitor Center Building Tours (by appointment)
Learn more about the building’s renovation, why the District decided to apply for LEED certification, how we reduced our environmental impact, and what “green” products we chose to use in the renovations. Tours last approximately one hour. Organized groups are welcome to call (815) 678-4532 to schedule a building tour their group. Minimum 12 people.