Prairieview Education Center

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

Building Hours:
Drop-In Public Hours:
Tuesdays & Thursday 9 a.m. - 4p.m.
Closed Nov. 24

Trail Map

Register for a program or event at Prairieview Education Center.

Opened to the public in 1999, the 10,000 square foot Prairieview Education Center serves thousands of McHenry County residents each year through participation in free or low-cost nature interpretation programs, summer camps, school field studies, scout programs and other staff guided activities. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the prairie, savanna and wetland natural communities of the Silver Creek Conservation Area while learning how to identify different bird species, finding animal tracks, or using binoculars to observe some of the creatures that call this conservation area home.
Families can stop by and enjoy activities in the “Sun Room”, including puzzles, games, a reading nook, do-it-yourself puppet theater, giant microscope and binoculars, as well as butterfly, bird, and rock exploration stations. Visitors of all ages can drop-in and enjoy watching activity at the bird feeders, sit for a spell and enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee while taking in the view, or browse through the reading materials from our collection.

Natural resource materials you can borrow for free!
The Education Services Department offers a variety of learning materials that are appropriate for teachers, parents, and youth group leaders seeking curriculum supplements, family activities, or assistance with badge requirements. These resources can be used on site during a visit or taken home for up to two weeks. For more information contact or call 815-479-5779.

IDNR Themed Trunks and Field Trip Pack (Grades PreK-8)   The Prairieview Education Center is a lending site for the themed resource trunks and field trip pack available through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Within these themed trunks and field trip pack you’ll find books, games, puzzles, DVDs, posters, hands‐on activities and more, all based on the theme of each resource. These themed trunks and field trip pack can be borrowed and taken home for up to two weeks and two themed trunks can be borrowed at a time.  See Available List

Take Along Packs Families, youth groups, and adults are welcome to borrow trail packs when they visit the Prairieview Education Center. The packs are free of charge and are for onsite use only. A driver’s license must be left at the center during use and materials returned one half hour prior to closing. 

Family Exploration Pack contains seasonal activities designed to enhance your time outdoors. The packs include games, activities, field guides, and storybooks.

Prairieview Field Pack (Ages 18+) Choose from a list of items to include in your pack based on your interests to enhance your experience on the trails, including different field guides (wildflowers, birds, butterflies, insects etc.), a nature journal and drawing tools, binoculars, and magnifying bug box. (Driver’s license required to hold at front desk when borrowing.)  Field Pack Check List

Map & Compass Packs are designed for families or youth groups wishing to use the outdoor map and compass course at Prairieview. Packs include maps, compasses and map reading activities for up to 24 participants. One adult should accompany every four children using the course.

Geocache Field Pack contains a 5 cache scavenger hunt and provides an introduction to geocaching. The pack includes a 10 step booklet on how to use the GPS units, 3 GPS units, an example of a geocache container, and GPS coordinates to locate caches.

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, which included over 1,000 acres of both upland wetland ecosystems and access to the Fox River. The home was redesigned to fulfill the need for an educational center in the growing southeast quadrant of the county; much of the exterior remains intact as it was when the Rhoades family lived here. The building was opened to the public in 1999.

In 1836 Corneillious Behan and his wife traveled by covered wagon from Boston to settle on 640 acres along the Fox River in McHenry County. He floated wood down the river from McHenry to build his home. The Behans had three children. His son Hippoleatus Behan was known to build boats on the adjacent Forbes farm in the late 1800s. Through the years, the land Corneillious had worked so hard clearing with oxen, was passed down and divided. At some point, while leading a team of horses across the river, a young colt got caught in the reins and was pulled under the water; Corneillious tried to save the colt, but also got pulled under and lost his life.

Silver Creek Conservation Area
Visitors of Silver Creek Conservation Area can enjoy over five miles of looped 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.