At the confluence of the east and west branch of the DuPage River sits the brand new Knoch Knolls Nature Center. The Naperville Park District opened the new center last fall, and it features a variety of activities for families to discover this unique piece of land.
If you go
Where: 320 Knoch Knolls Rd., Naperville, IL
When: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m.
As you approach the Knock Knolls Nature Center, you walk through an outdoor replica frame of the first water-powered sawmill in the area, built in the 1830s.
That’s where you’ll find the nature-themed playground that is a ton of fun, with a lot of special features. The playground has a slide that can only be accessed from the top of the rock climbing wall. If your little one isn’t so into climbing or heights, the wall itself features several different fossils, and finding all of those is a fun activity you can do with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
The playground has many fun options for little ones and big ones, with equipment that was completely different from what I’ve seen on other playgrounds to old favorites like a teeter totter.
We were there on an evening when the playground was empty, so my tween daughter was able to explore. I was a bit surprised that she was interested, but she loved it.
“I feel like I’m five again! This place is awesome!” she exclaimed.
We wandered around the other side of the building to the deck overlooking the pond. The scenery was lovely, and we tried to find the goose eggs that we had seen mentioned on signs warning of very protective geese who are parents-to-be. After a while there, my daughter asked if we could head back to the playground a bit. I’d say it was a big hit.
Inside the Knock Knolls Nature Center, visitors will find several different exhibits that cover a lot of different subjects, including a 900-gallon freshwater tank that provides a glimpse into the world of the river. It’s a chance to discover how the DuPage River impacts the ecosystems and wildlife of the area.
The center has a big focus on living in a way that respects the environments. One exhibit explains how the building was built to be green, and another shows how the Native Americans, who were the first to live in the area of the confluence, were the original “green” builders. It explores how they were sustainable, from explaining how they lived off the land to sharing that there were at least ten different ways they used cattails.
The nature center is the highlight, but the park offers lots of fun activities as well.
“Spring is a perfect time to visit and walk among the Virginia bluebells that carpet the Lower Grove or hike or bike along our 4.5 miles of trails,” says Angelique Harshman, Nature Center Manager.
Families can also play a round on the 18-hole disc golf course or pack a picnic to enjoy in the picnic grove.
The nature center is open year round, seven days a week, only closing for a few holidays each year. Each season, the nature center offers a wide variety of classes on nature-related topics for all ages. You can find information on that at the Naperville Park District website.
If you're looking for more places around Chicago to enjoy the great outdoors, check out the must-see forest preserves in your county.