Visit the Downers Grove Natural Areas, Lyman Woods and Belmont Prairie, and discover the wonders of nature! Come out for an invigorating walk on the trails or a peaceful encounter with nature. Explore and enjoy the seasonal changes of forest, prairie, and marsh. Spend some time searching for amazing plants, buzzing insects, boisterous song birds, and elusive mammals. Bring your camera for stunning photos!
Lyman Woods is 150 acres of oak woods, prairie, and marsh habitats that supports over 300 species of native plants. Discover an amazing diversity of plant life, including six species classified as rare in the Chicago region. Catch a glimpse of animals including deer, coyote, fox, Cooper's Hawks, Great Horned Owls, a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians, insects, and numerous songbirds.
During your visit, you'll find three rare kames, glacially deposited hills of gravel, which support native prairie and oak woods. The most outstanding feature is a 19-acre oak woods that has remained undisturbed since it was purchased by the Lyman family in 1839. Today it serves as one of the few examples of the pre-settlement landscape that dominated the Downers Grove area.
The preservation of Lyman Woods in 1987 represents the cooperative effort of the Village of Downers Grove, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the Downers Grove Park District, and many dedicated individuals.
Please note: In accordance with the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission there are no dogs, bikes, or cross-country skis allowed in Lyman Woods. Thank you for your cooperation.
Lyman Woods is located east of Highland Avenue between Good Samaritan Hospital on the south and 31st Street on the north. Parking is available at the William F. Sherman, Jr. Interpretive Center at 901 31st Street. Directions.
Love to hike? Want to spend more time outdoors? Hiking Patrol volunteers help maintain our beautiful natural areas by hiking the trails at Lyman Woods and the Belmont Prairie. Volunteers inspect trails, report trail conditions and answer frequently asked questions from fellow hikers.
(Restore, Educate and Preserve) is a volunteer group dedicated to restoring and protecting the Downers Grove Park District's natural areas. Land management workdays are held on selected Saturdays from 8:00 - 10:30 am. Volunteers must register at least one week in advance of the scheduled workday. Volunteer workdays can be arranged for organized groups upon request.
Nature enthusiasts are needed to assist in restoration efforts and tend to our native plant demonstration and butterfly gardens.
Contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Melanie Smith, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to sign up!
Reverend Lyman's son, Henry, inherited the homestead in 1851 and used the land to breed cattle and sheep. Henry's wife, Lovancia Pease was one of the earliest suffrage advocates in this area. Henry's son, Walter C. Lyman, inherited the homestead and cared for his mother until her death. He married Jesse Woodford, a librarian, naturalist, wildflower preservationist, and poet. Walter was a pioneer in beekeeping in Illinois, and was awarded the only prize for honey at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. The Lymans had a great love for nature and the oak woods, especially the wildflowers that thrive under the centuries-old oaks.
Jesse Woodford Lyman lived at the homestead after Walter died in 1926 at the age of 72. She felt strongly about the continued preservation of the old oak woods, and before her death she entrusted Lyman Woods to George Williams College. George Williams College preserved the land as part of the campus until they faced financial difficulties in the mid-1980's. The campus was sold to Midwestern University, but what is now known as Lyman Woods was put up for sale in 1986.
The community was concerned about the future of Lyman Woods, and efforts to encourage the preservation of Lyman Woods were led by Friends of Lyman Woods. In a Village poll, 62% of residents felt that Downers Grove should participate in the preservation of Lyman Woods. However, the proposition was defeated at a Village Council meeting. Residents appealed to the Village Council members, who reconsidered and finally approved the joint purchase of 81.5 acres with the Downers Grove Park District and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in a 3-2 vote. The land was preserved as a natural area in 1987.
In the mid-90's, community activists worked to preserve additional property at the corner of Highland Avenue and 31st Street, north of what was then Lyman Woods. The land had previously been a wooded residential area and had been purchased by Town and County Homes. Town and Country intended to build a town home development and an office complex on the land. A professional ecologist was hired to study and document the importance of this north parcel of land as a buffer to the Lyman Woods preserve.
On March 19th, 1996, the residents of the Downers Grove Park District passed the referendum to save "Downers' Last Grove" by just 12 votes out of over 14,000 votes cast. Over the following years, additional parcels were purchased by the Park District and/or the Forest Preserve District and added to the preserve, supported by the activism of Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance.
Belmont Prairie is one of the last original prairies in Illinois. It is an excellent example of one of the few remaining natural prairie habitats that is maintained by the Downers Grove Park District. The efforts of the District have been rewarded by the Prairie's official designation by the State as an Illinois Nature Preserve, supporting more than 300 species of plant and animal wildlife. It is an excellent educational and cultural resource for the benefit of District residents and visitors from farther afield. The Prairie contains a wide variety of quadra-seasonal grasses and other plants in an undisturbed setting. The animal wildlife that may be observed includes fox, raccoons, meadow voles, opossums, ground squirrels, garter snakes and, occasionally, coyote and white-tailed deer. A nature trail provides pedestrian access. The prairie is served by a 6 car parking lot located on Cross Street.
Please note: In accordance with the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission there are no dogs, bikes, or cross-country skis allowed in Belmont Prairie. Thank you for your cooperation.
The Belmont Prairie is located west of the Downers Grove Golf Course at Haddow Avenue and Cross Street. Parking is available at the trail head on Cross Street. Directions.
Dawn to Dusk
In December 1842, John Graves purchased two quarter-sections of prairie land from the U.S. government, west of Downers Grove. This purchase included what are today both Belmont Prairie and the Downers Grove Golf Course. This piece of land changed ownership numerous times until it was divided in 1890, with one half becoming the golf course and the other remaining prairie, and the block between them being developed in 1920.
Then, in April of 1970, Alfred and Margaret Dupree presented a photograph of a rare prairie wildflower to an expert at the Morton Arboretum, as they were interested if it represented possible remnants of a native prairie. Upon inspection, it was found that the field had numerous native prairie species, and with the help of The Nature Conservancy, the owners were tracked down and the land was purchased. After officially becoming a part of the Park District, it was named an Illinois Nature Preserve in March, 1994.
If you have any questions or comments about the Natural Areas, please contact Shannon Forsythe, Manager of Natural Resources and Interpretive Services at (630) 963-9388 or via email.