Prairieview Education Center

Located in:
Silver Creek Conservation Area 
2112 Behan Road
, Crystal Lake  
Ph (815) 479-5779
Fax (815) 479.5766

Building Hours:
Note: Building open for programs and by appointment only. 

Register for a program or event at Prairieview Education Center.

Opened to the public in 1999, Prairieview Education Center serves thousands of McHenry County residents annually by offering free and low-cost nature programs, youth group programs, summer camps, school field trips and nature-themed birthday . The facility hosts traveling exhibits, a reference library, and a family drop-in “Exploration Station.” This interactive room features hands-on activities to help children learn about the natural world. A puppet theater, themed book bags and nature boxes, board games, puzzles, books, and magazines are just some of the available resources. Stop by throughout the year as the activities reflect the seasonal changes taking place in the environment. 

Prairieview ‘s main building was once the elaborate home of Otto and Hazel Rhoades, built in 1945. Otto was the founder and president of Sun Electric Company, now Snap On Tools in Crystal Lake. The couple built the 7,500 square foot home,  along with a state of the art barn and machine shop. They farmed much of the land, growing their own crops and raising their own beef and pork. The property was then known as Sunrise Farm. Horses and cows grazed in the wooded savanna just southwest of the house. They shared the property with a farm manager and his family, who lived in another house located where Prairieview’ s gazebo stands today. Otto passed away in 1986, followed by Hazel in 1992.

The Conservation District purchased the property in 1993 and began redesigning the home to fulfill the need for an educational center in the growing southeast quadrant of the county. The front and back of the building were expanded and the interior reconstructed, but much of the exterior remains intact as it was when the Rhoades family lived here. The building was opened to the public in 1999.

Silver Creek Conservation Area
Visitors of Silver Creek Conservation Area can enjoy over six miles of hiking trails, cross-country ski trails, and fishing in one of the small ponds. Picnic areas are also available. The natural communities present include wetland, prairie, and savanna. The wide open view highlights a mixture of native grasses and colorful wildflowers, including compass plants, coneflowers, and many species of asters. The woodlands and savannas feature grand oak and hickory trees that invite a wide variety of songbirds, hawks, and owls to fly among the branches while deer, coyotes and an occasional red fox travel below. Sedge meadows and fens located along Silver Creek, within a designated Illinois Nature Preserve, provide habitat for saturated soil loving plants such as marsh marigolds and skunk cabbage, as well as a number of species of frogs, salamanders, snakes and turtles. 

Hiker Trail Packs
Enhance your visit by borrowing a hiker trail pack or educational kit!  We also offer educational loan materials. These include The “Naturalist in a Box” and “Backyard Buddy” Kits, as well as a GPS backpack for the mini-geocache trail for families to explore.