Recreation & Parks Department
THORN CREEK NATURE CENTER & PRESERVE
|THORN CREEK NATURE CENTER & NATURE PRESERVE
247 Monee Road, Park Forest, IL 60466
Open Friday – Sunday, noon to 4 pm
Trails open daily year-round, dawn to dusk
May 24-May 26
Friday, August 30-Sunday September 1 (Labor Day weekend)
Trail use: For individuals or for groups of less than ten, there is no charge to use the trails. Children must be with an adult.
Program registration: Most programs require registration unless otherwise noted. Call to register.
Thorn Creek Nature Center is housed in an historic building, originally Immanuel Lutheran Church of Matteson, Illinois built in 1862, and later Village Bible Church of Park Forest. A gothic frame country church, its notable architectural features include curved ceiling, tongue-and-groove paneling and a raised pulpit. Its current attractions are displays of the preserve’s flora and fauna, a bird feeder viewing area, Eugene E. Schwartz reference library and an expanded children’s section.
Thorn Creek Nature Preserve is a 985 acre oak-hickory woodland dotted with vernal ponds and dissected by Thorn Creek and its tributary streams. Over 3 1/2 miles of trails meander through woodland, floodplain forest, scenic ravines and pine plantations. The Nature Center Loop Trail travels through young developing forest and shrubby, successional old fields - wonderful habitat for bird watching. Crossing Thorn Creek twice, the Woodland Trail loops through floodplain forests, mesic and dry-mesic upland forests and pine plantations. Continue through the tunnel of pines and on to Owl Lake, a marsh that developed on and around a glacial pothole. A short walk on the Wetland Trail leads to an observation platform overlooking a large wetland complex. The preserve also shelters an historic farm, the Hornicek Farm, old-field habitat and restored prairie.
PRAIRIE CHAPEL IS AVAILABLE
A quiet and haunting image of the prairie...
Inspired by the Thorn Creek Nature Center, Prairie Chapel, is an original graphite drawing by Marikay Peter Witlock.
Through a generous donation by the artist, the Prairie Chapel print is available, with a donation to Friends of Thorn Creek Woods of $75 or more.
100% of donated dollars will benefit Thorn Creek Nature Preserve.
Intrigued by a promise of a patch of prairie, Witlock visited Thorn Creek Nature Center in the late summer of 1988. She left that visit with a vision of prairie and chapel woven as one, and a profound sense of the sacred in the land. Prairie Chapel became the first in a series of over 35 drawings combining architectural elements with the grasses and forbs of Illinois.
A local professional artist and tireless volunteer for the arts, Marikay’s current artwork is available through The Illinois Artisans’ Shop, Chicago, Illinois, and Union Street Gallery, Chicago Heights, Illinois.
The Prairie Chapel print is a limited edition of 300 signed and numbered unframed prints, with image size of 13” x 17” and finished size of 18” x 21”. It is printed on acid free 80 lb. paper.
Friends of Thorn Creek Woods is a tax-exempt 501(c) (3) organization. Donations to Friends, over the value of the Prairie Chapel print (valued at $75) are tax-deductible.
For more information please contact: Thorn Creek Nature Center, 708-747-6320 or email@example.com. To view a framed Prairie Chapel print, visit Thorn Creek Nature Center Friday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
THORN CREEK NATURE PRESERVE PROGRAMS - SPRING PROGRAMS
WEDNESDAY MORNING WALKERS – WEEKLY PROGRAM
Wednesdays, April 17–June 19, 7:30-9 a.m.
Registration not required.
Follow the forest’s spring changes, enjoy light exercise and experience nature firsthand on Thorn Creek’s winding trails. Trails can be wet or muddy, please wear sturdy shoes. Hiking is on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
BIKE AND HIKE: BENEFIT FOR THORN CREEK WOODS
Saturday, May 11, noon-4 p.m., Rain or shine.
Suggested $20 donation per person.
Registration required by Thursday, May 9: call 708-747-6320.
Ride your motorcycle or bicycle to Thorn Creek Nature Center, savor homemade soups, tour the Nature Center and enjoy a two mile nature hike. The benefit event is in memory of the late Joe Hanes. Joe and his wife Alice were early supporters of Thorn Creek Woods and longtime members of BMW Club. Co-sponsored by Friends of TCW, Chicago Region BMW Motorcycle Owners Association, Park Forest Environment Commission and Garden Club of Park Forest.
THORN CREEK NATURE PRESERVE PROGRAMS - SUMMER PROGRAMS
WEDNESDAY MORNING WALKERS - WEEKLY PROGRAM
Wednesdays, June 5-August 28, 7:30-9 a.m. Free! Ages 11-adult.
Registration not required
Follow the forest’s seasonal changes, enjoy light exercise and experience nature firsthand on 2 miles
of Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve’s winding trails. Trails may be wet or muddy, so please
wear sturdy shoes. Hiking is on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
JUNIOR ECOLOGISTS CLUB MONTHLY PROGRAM
Saturdays: June 8, July 20, August 17, noon to 3 p.m. Free! Ages 9-12.
Registration required 2 days before program day.
Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve’s Club offers fun-filled nature activities each month for
young people. Club members will uncover the mysteries of nature first-hand while exploring
the preserve, working on projects and assisting with Nature Center programs. Each month
they will explore the woods, track season changes and discover the woodland plants and
animals. Hiking is approximately 1 mile on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
HISTORIC FARM WALK
Sunday, June 2, 1-3 p.m.
Free! All ages.
Registration required by May 31
Enjoy a summer day on the historic Hornicek Farm nestled in Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve. Tour the farm buildings and the organic gardens. Wander in the old-fashioned flower gardens. Meet brown-egg laying hens
and maybe some blue egg layers too. Sip lemonade and listen to old-time music. Meet at the Nature Center, and carpool to the farm. The program will be held on natural surface across uneven terrain.
VISIONS AND VOICES: A BENEFIT FOR THORN CREEK WOODS
Featuring Marikay Peter Witlock and Patricia Caldwell
Sunday, June 23, 1-4 p.m. Admission $5.
Come to an open house at Thorn Creek Nature Center featuring local artist Marikay Peter Witlock
and musician Patricia Caldwell. Meet the artist who was inspired by our Nature Center to create
“Prairie Chapel” an original graphic drawing featuring the iconic 1860’s church. Enjoy songs of
inspiration and humor by Patricia Caldwell. Hammered dulcimer musician Jerry Santoni will evoke
memories of long-ago with his poignant melodies. There will be refreshments and a silent auction.
Proceeds of sales of “Prairie Chapel” prints and donations will benefit the Nature Preserve.
Call the Nature Center for additional program details.
FIREFLIES NIGHT HIKE
Friday, June 28, 7:30-9 p.m.
Free! All ages
Registration required by Wednesday, June 25
Let the magic of “lightning bugs” entrance you on this summer night adventure. Come and discover why fireflies
flash back and forth to each other. We’ll hunt for the little phosphorescent insects, and learn why they
developed their nocturnal signals, how they emit their glow, and what their coded messages mean.
Participants should be prepared to walk over 1 mile outdoors on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
WOMEN OF THE WOODS: A NATURE RETREAT
Saturday, June 29, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Adult women; $5/person
Registration required by Thursday, June 27
Celebrate the beauty of the summer solstice woods in this program for women only! Discover the naturalist
in you as you explore the woods, observing birds and insects, identifying trees and flowers, following
tracks and much more. Participants will enjoy a hike on natural surface trails over uneven terrain for
approximately 2 miles.
SUMMER SAFARI: ADVENTURES ON THORN CREEK!
Thursday-Saturday, July 25-27
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Ages 5-7, $35 per child
Pre-registration and pre-payment required by Monday, July 22. Hiking, stream-stomping and bug-catching are a few of the key ingredients that make summer exploration camp a great way to learn and have fun! Our 3-day program offers children the opportunity to unwind, explore nature and learn about the critters that live along and in Thorn Creek. Through nature study and investigation, games, crafts, hikes and more, we will guide your child in hands-on exploration and discovery of our natural waterway. Snacks will be provided. Children should wear play clothes: long pants, a light, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, and sturdy shoes for exploring, not sandals. Insect repellent is also highly encouraged. Participants should be prepared to walk 1 mile outdoors on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
Sunday, July 21, 1-3 p.m. Free! All ages. Registration required by Friday, July 19. Enjoy all that the Nature Preserve has to offer as we explore our summer trails. We’ll listen for wildlife and get a sense of the “wild” in our woods. Hikers will visit and learn about the woodlands, wetlands and maybe even prairies. Participants should be prepared to walk 2 miles on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
SOUNDS OF INSECTS NIGHT HIKE
Saturday, August 3, 7:30-9 p.m.
All ages. Free!
Registration required by Thursday, August 1: 708-747-6420
Join us as we venture out on the trail listening for insect sounds. Many insects become more active as the sun goes down and we know they are active because of their calls. Each species makes distinct sounds. Find out how to tell the common local species apart and why they make these sounds. Participants should be prepared to walk over 1 mile outdoors on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
NATURE CAMP FOR SENIORS
Monday, August 5, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Age 50 years and up, $5 per person.
Registration required by Saturday, August 3
Ever wonder what kind of tree you just walked by? Or perhaps you hear a loud chirping and don’t know if it is a squirrel or a bird? This program is designed to give you skills to interpret the woods around you, as well as ways to teach your friends and family how to discover more in the woods. For part of the program we'll explore Thorn Creek Woods trails in a new way. Patricia Caldwell will share the relaxing healing sounds of her Tibetan Singing Bowls as a special feature of the program. Lunch will be provided. Participants should be prepared to walk ½ mile outdoors on natural surface trails across uneven terrain.
THORN CREEK TRAILS FOR HIKING AND NATURE STUDY
Nature Center Trail travels ½ mile loop through young, developing forest and shrubby, successional
old fields - wonderful habitat for bird watching.
Woodland Trail of 1-1/2 mile crosses Thorn Creek twice and loops through floodplain forests, mesic
and dry-mesic upland forests and pine plantations.
Owl Lake Trail is a 1-1/4 mile round trip spur taking you from the pine plantation on the Woodland Trail
to and around Owl Lake, a marsh that developed on and around a glacial pothole.
Wetland Trail excursion off the Owl Lake Trail is a 1/4 mile round trip to an observation platform
overlooking a large wetland complex.
A walk to the Wetland Trail observation platform and back around the trail loops is a 3-1/2 mile nature
adventure, open to the public year round, dawn to dusk.
FRIENDS OF THORN CREEK WOODS
Formed in 1969, FRIENDS OF THORN CREEK WOODS is the citizen activist group responsible
in very large part for preserving the Woods and securing its dedication as an Illinois Nature Preserve.
FRIENDS, originally known as Thorn Creek Preservation Association, conceived of the then unique
and now much imitated, multi-agency commission. The Commission includes the land holding agencies
and FRIENDS in overseeing the whole Woods as a single entity.
Thorn Creek FRIENDS volunteers act as advocates, build trails, created displays, lead groups, clean
the nature center, the trails & preserve, collect data, monitor species, patrol boundaries, answer phones,
assist with programs, and much, much more.
FRIENDS volunteers make Thorn Creek Woods a symbol of people living in harmony with nature,
enriching their own lives and passing on to their children a priceless heritage.
Join FRIENDS today to:
- Support one of the finest natural areas in Illinois.
- Receive our quarterly newsletter Thorn Creek News.
- Participate in the management of the nature preserve.
- Provide financial support for nature center & preserve.
- Sponsor Earth Day and autumn special Garlic Fest.
- Attend Friends annual meeting every autumn.
- Raise a voice for the Woods & preservation values in local & regional forums.
FRIENDS established the THORN CREEK WOODS CAPITAL FUND to be used for improvements
in the Nature Center building and in the Preserve itself over the years. The Capital Fund supports improvements
like new trail bridges, window repairs, painting and trail signs at Thorn Creek Woods.
Over $17,000 has been raised already. The steeple windows were repaired, the damaged north bridge is
being rebuilt, and the nature center doors were replaced.
Another $50,000 is needed to repair the old windows and paint the inside and outside of our Nature Center
built in 1861, to continue trail boardwalks and signage improvements, and to replace the south foot bridge
built in 1976—vital projects that need to be done.
All donations—small and large—are greatly appreciated.
FRIENDS OF THORN CREEK WOODS organization is designated a tax-exempt organization under
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP THORN CREEK NATURE PRESERVE?
section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations to FRIENDS are deductible on your federal income tax returns.
- Volunteer your time!
- Donate funds to Thorn Creek Nature Center, or to Friends, a tax-exempt organization under
501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Be a Trail Watcher-Be our eyes & ears on the trails.
Come to our programs.
Become a member of Friends of Thorn Creek Woods.
Take our program & fundraising brochures to work, clubs, groups.
Donate items we need.
Let us know about sources of funding-grants – for building bridges, painting, repairs, etc.
NATURE CENTER NEEDS
- Garlic roasters, keepers or books
- Cases of bottled water
- Birdseed (mix or black sunflower seed—no corn)
- Suet cakes
- Picture Hanging Strips – Command brand, medium size, need lots!
- Stamps you saved for Audubon Society
- 1” x 2 5/8” address labels- ink jet or laser
- Plastic boxes with lids – 6 quart
- Plants for Butterfly Garden-must be shade tolerant and deer resistant
- 6"x 9" mailing envelopes.
HELPERS NEEDED AT THORN CREEK NATURE PRESERVE
Email Thorn Creek Nature Center at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a message at 708-747-6320, if you are interested in helping with any of these fun things!
- Helpers for Nature Center Open Hours on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Trail Watchers and Trail Minor Repair people and Trail Major Repair people.
Someone to work on creating our TC website– we have a certified domain, domain name registration and a 2 year WebSite Tonight Delux 10 page. We can easily come up with the items to be included on the web page and we have wonderful line drawings to illustrate it.
People to bake and/or make soup for our events.
Person to draft up our press releases.
People interested in learning how to lead nature hikes and assist at programs.
Someone to do Friends Memberships: input/update memberships and due dates in master excel file monthly or so, print labels. quarterly for mailings, and update Friends changes in TC mail list.
2 or 3 people to work with Friends board to update our Bylaws; they are ancient and we do have at least one model we can utilize.
A person to identify the wildflowers and fungi depicted in nature center photographs.
1 or 2 people to work on revitalizing our fundraising for the Capital Fund—starting with revising our Capital Fund brochure.
Person to scan in various graphics for our collection.
We need to get a plaque for the bridge– does anyone know of a source for outside plaques?
A long time member has about 30 framed antique bird prints that she wants to sell and donate the proceeds to TC. To sell them on ebay we need to carefully take the prints out of their frames, measure each, then have a photographer shoot each in controlled lighting with a tripod. We need a helper and a photographer– it should take about 5 hours on one or maybe two days. Can you help on this??
JOIN FRIENDS OF THORN CREEK WOODS TODAY
___Membership…$10 __Life Member....$150 __Organization & Business…$50
___I’d like to volunteer at Thorn Creek Nature Center, please call me.
___I am donating $______ to the Jim Marzuki Memorial Fund – to make a difference in Thorn Creek public programming.
___I am donating $______________ to Friends general purposes.
___I am donating $______to the Thorn Creek Woods Capital Fund for improvements in the Preserve & in the Nature Center building.
In memory of _______________ In honor of ______________
$_______ Total Enclosed
City _____________________________ State_____ Zip__________
FRIENDS OF THORN CREEK WOODS, Box 159, Richton Park, IL 60471
DIRECTIONS TO THORN CREEK NATURE CENTER
From the Western Suburbs:
I-355 south to I-80; I-80 east to I-57; I-57 south to Sauk Trail exit; east on Sauk Trail to Cicero Ave. (Rt. 50) –note big stone church on corner; turn right onto Cicero Ave.; south on Cicero Ave. to first stop sign labeled University Parkway (also known as Stuenkel Road); turn left (east) onto University Parkway (Stuenkel Road); pass Governors Highway (stop sign), railroad tracks, Governors State University & golf course. At next stop sign continue straight on Stuenkel Road (University Parkway turns right). Stuenkel Road dead ends at Monee Road. Turn left on Monee Road to the nature center (about ¼ mile).
From the Northern Suburbs:
I-294 south to I-80; I-80 west to I-57; I-57 south to Sauk Trail exit; east on Sauk Trail to Cicero Ave. (Rt. 50) –note big stone church on corner; turn right onto Cicero Ave.; south on Cicero Ave. to first stop sign labeled University Parkway (also known as Stuenkel Road); turn left (east) onto University Parkway (Stuenkel Road); pass Governors Highway (stop sign), railroad tracks, Governors State University & golf course. At next stop sign continue straight on Stuenkel Road (University Parkway turns right). Stuenkel Road dead ends at Monee Road. Turn left on Monee Road to the nature center (about ¼ mile).
I-57 south to Sauk Trail exit; east on Sauk Trail to Cicero Ave. (Rt. 50) –note big stone church on corner; turn right onto Cicero Ave.; south on Cicero Ave. to first stop sign labeled University Parkway (also known as Stuenkel Road); turn left (east) onto University Parkway (Stuenkel Road); pass Governors Highway (stop sign), railroad tracks, Governors State University & golf course. At next stop sign continue straight on Stuenkel Road (University Parkway turns right). Stuenkel Road dead ends at Monee Road. Turn left on Monee Road to the nature center (about ¼ mile).
From Indiana (near Rt. 30):
Rt. 30 west to Sauk Trail; turn left onto Sauk Trail; go west on Sauk Trail to Western Ave.; turn left onto Western Ave.; go south on Western Ave. to next stoplight (only about 100 yds.) Monee Road; turn right (you can only turn right) onto Monee Road; follow Monee Road about 2 miles to the nature center.
From Indiana (near I-80):
I-80 west to I-394; I-394 south to Sauk Trail; turn right onto Sauk Trail; go west on Sauk Trail to Western Ave.; turn left onto Western Ave.; go south on Western Ave. to next stoplight (only about 100 yds.) Monee Road; turn right (you can only turn right) onto Monee Road; follow Monee Road about 2 miles to the nature center.