Nygren Preserve Wagon Tour
A Family Wagon Tour of Nygren Wetland Preserve
For a video version of this story click HERE.
Contributor: Carol Aslesen
"I caught a frog!" "See that eagle!" "Do you hear the owl?" "Look at this beaver lodge!" Such were the excited exclamations and chatter on our Mother's Day weekend family outing--a wagon ride through the Nygren Wetland Preserve guided by Kevin Rohling, Director of Stewardship at the Illinois Natural Land Institute.
I bid on a "Wagon Ride for up to 20 People" at a silent auction fund raiser for the Lower Sugar River Watershed Association at its annual meeting in March. Thinking this might be a fun family activity, I was not disappointed. The Saturday before Mother's Day all three of our sons, their wives and six grandchildren ages one to six gathered at our home for a day of fun.
To prepare the children for the evening wagon ride we had them make nature crafts: coffee filter butterflies, clothespin caterpillars and decorated bug jars. Each child decorated the cover of their own "Discovery Book"; a pocket binder containing some simple worksheets, including a picture checklist of wildlife that the kids might see in the Wetland Preserve.
We met Kevin at the Preserve at 6 pm. He drove an ATV that pulled a comfortably outfitted wagon—there were steps in the back and benches on both sides surrounded by a railing--so it was very secure and comfortable, but did not obstruct the view of the landscape.
It was a beautiful, sunny and just warm enough evening. We listened as Kevin gave us a brief history of the area; how it had been farmland but was being reclaimed as a natural wetland area. Nygren Wetland Preserve contains 721 acres along Raccoon Creek at the confluence of the Pecatonica and Rock Rivers just outside of Rockton, Illinois. We were delighted by the beauty of the area and by the abundance of wildlife that we saw. The kids got most of the items on their checklists marked off.
The activity was thoroughly enjoyed by all ages. The little ones and adults could all appreciate the experience at different levels of understanding. The children just enjoyed the novelty of a wagon ride and seeing the wildlife. We adults were able to learn about and appreciate the restoration work that had been done to reclaim the wetland and create a nature preserve such as this.
The Sugar River flows into the Pecatonica at Shirland, Illinois. From there the Pecatonica joins the Rock River at Rockton. I encourage you to make the short jaunt into Illinois to visit the beautiful Nygren Wetland Preserve. There are well marked hiking trails and an observation platform. The Natural Land Institute website (www.naturalland.org) suggests calling or emailing ahead: you can make arrangements for a wagon ride or just walk through the Preserve. Contact 815.964.6666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.