Visitor Center is open Wednesday - Sunday, 9am - 3 pm as staff and
volunteers are available.
If you're looking
for a truly unique outdoor adventure, head for Volo Bog State Natural
Area in northeastern Illinois. Just 45 miles northwest of Chicago in Lake
County, this natural area contains Volo Bog, the only "quaking"
bog in Illinois to have an open water center.
Volo Bog was first
documented by W.G. Waterman of Northwestern Illinois University in 1921.
It was originally named the Sayer Bog, after the land's owner, dairy farmer
George Sayer. Cyrus Mark, the first director of the Illinois Chapter of
the Nature Conservancy, managed a fund-raising campaign that collected
$40,000 in donations from school children, groups and individuals for
the purchase of the 47.5-acre bog in 1958. The land was deeded to the
University of Illinois, which retained ownership until 1970.
In the late 1960s,
land developers threatened Volo Bog's survival. Local citizens formed
a "Save the Volo Bog" committee and worked to ensure the bog's
survival. Dr. William Beecher was instrumental in the campaign, which
resulted in the transfer of Volo Bog to the Illinois Department of Natural
Volo Bog was dedicated
as an Illinois Nature Preserve in 1970. Three years later, it was registered
as a National Natural Landmark with the United States Department of the
Interior. More than 1,100 additional acres of land have been purchased
to protect and enlarge the state preserve, which now includes marshes,
prairie restoration areas, woodlands and two other bogs.
current landscape of the northeast corner of Illinois was shaped
principally by glacial activity, particularly when the Wisconsin
glacier began its final stages of melting thousands of years ago.
As it receded, it deposited a blanket of unsorted debris, including
clay, sand, gravel and boulders, collectively called glacial till.
Embedded in the till were large chunks of ice that broke off the
melting glacier. As the climate continued to warm, the ice blocks
melted, forming depressions which developed into lakes, bogs and
Volo Bog was
originally a deep 50-acre lake, with steep banks and poor drainage.
Research on pollen grains preserved in the bog indicates that the
lake began filling with vegetation approximately 6,000 years ago.
A floating mat, consisting primarily of sphagnum moss formed around
the outside edges among the cattails and sedges. As these plants
died and decomposed, the peat mat thickened, forming a support material
for rooted plants. Because of the lack of drainage and the presence
of sphagnum moss, the water in the bog became acidic. This limited
the types of plants that could survive and thus created the unique
plant communities found in the bog.
Volo Bog is
significant in that it exhibits all stages of bog succession. A
floating mat of sphagnum moss, cattails and sedges surrounds an
open pool of water in the center of the bog. As substrate material
thickens, a shrub community dominated by poison sumac and leatherleaf
invades the mat. This is eventually replaced by tamarack forest.
Surrounding this forest is a second, more extensive shrub zone which
abruptly ends and becomes a marsh/sedge meadow community.
season brings its own beauty and wonder to Volo Bog and seasonal
visits allow for observation of a wide variety of plant and animal
life. In the spring, fern fiddleheads reveal their beautiful fronds.
Bog buckbean and leatherleaf bloom in abundance. A great variety
of songbirds, waterfowl and wading birds stop by as they migrate
north to their summer nesting areas.
As spring moves
into summer, the orchids appear, including the delicate grass pink
and rose pogonia. Great blue and green-backed herons, sandhill cranes,
whitetail deer, mink, muskrat, raccoon and many other smaller creatures
are often observed.
Fall is one
of the most dramatic seasons and features the gold of the tamarack
needles, the red of poison sumac and the deep green of sphagnum
Winter is a
good time to identify trees and shrubs by their bark. The bright
red berries of the winter berry holly and red leaves of the leatherleaf
are a striking contrast to the bright whiteness of the snow-covered
ground. Animal tracks in the snow provide evidence of life in the
bog - deer, muskrat, weasel and red fox who make their homes in
the preserve. Periodically, when seed yield to the north is small,
crossbills will visit the bog and can be observed cracking open
opened in 1980, Volo Bog's Visitor Center is housed in a dairy barn
built in the early 1900's. Renovations began in November 1996 to
bring the building up to code, make it fully accessible and accommodate
the needs of the fast-increasing population of northeastern Illinois.
The center includes a program room, the Tamarack Shop, offices and
restrooms on the first floor. An elevator, housed in the silo, takes
visitors to the second floor exhibits, hands-on discovery area and
Interpretive Trail: Designed for hikers only, this half-mile
interpretive loop leads visitors through each stage of bog succession.
It is constructed of wooden dock sections, boardwalks and a woodchip
path. Trail brochures, adapted for each season, are available at
the visitor center.
View Trail: This 2.75-mile trail is designed for hiking and
cross-country skiing (with a six-inch minimum snowbase). As park
visitors traverse through woods, wetlands, field and prairie, they
are given the opportunity to experience and enjoy the diverse communities
within the park. From higher elevations along the trail, one can
look down into the Volo Bog basin and view the state threatened
tamarack trees. The trail begins just south of the visitor center
and moves in a counter clockwise direction. All visitors are encouraged
to move in the appropriate direction, but it is especially important
that skiers do so to avoid accidents. A trail brochure for Tamarack
View Trail is also available.
Deerpath Trail and Prairie View Trail: offer an additional 2 miles of hiking through old fields, woods & prairie restoration areas
of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' sites with an Interpretive
Program Coordinator, Volo Bog offers fun educational programs for
people of most ages (4-94+). Naturalist led programs include bog
tours, prairie walks, insect and aqua safari's, summer bat programs
and more. Assisting the site naturalist, trained volunteers add
their skills and experiences at Volo Bog. Volunteer naturalists
lead one-hour public tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00 a.m.
and 1:00 p.m. Others lead astronomy nights and bird walks. Volunteers
also assist with group programs available to school, youth and adult
groups. For more details see Interpretive
A picnic area
with tables and an outdoor privy is conveniently located adjacent
to the visitor center parking lot. Visitors are encouraged to bring
their own grill for cooking or use one of two near the picnic shelter.
Ground fires and alcohol are strictly prohibited anywhere in the
Pets are not allowed on the Volo Bog Interpretive Boardwalk Trail due to the sensitive chemistry of the wetland soil. Pets on a 6' leash or shorter are welcome on the other trails at Volo Bog SNA.
(Chicago/North suburbs) Take I 94 to Route 120 Belvidere Rd Westbound
13 miles to Highway 12. Turn right and travel 2 miles north to Brandenburg
Rd. Turn left on Brandenburg Rd. and travel 1.25 miles to the park.
From the East (Waukegan/Gurnee)
Take Route 120 Belvidere Rd. westbound to Highway 12. Turn right and travel
2 miles north to Brandenburg Rd. Turn left on Brandenburg Rd. and travel
1.25 miles to the park.
From the North (Fox
Lake/Wisconsin) Take Highway 12 south through Fox Lake 3/4 miles past
Route 134 to Brandenburg Rd. Turn right on Brandenburg Rd and go 1.25
miles to the park
From the West (Woodstock/McHenry)
Take Route 120 east through McHenry about one mile past the Fox River
to Chapel Hill Rd. Turn left on Chapel Hill and go 1/2 mile to Lincoln
Rd. Turn Right on Lincoln and go 2.5 miles to Brandenburg Rd. turn left
on Brandenburg Rd. and go 1/2 mile to the park.
From the South (Elgin/Crystal
Lake, etc.) Take Route 31 north to Route 120 in McHenry. Turn right and
continue east on 120 about one mile past the Fox River to Chapel Hill
Rd. Turn left on Chapel Hill and go 1/2 mile to Lincoln Rd. Turn right
on Lincoln and go 2.5 miles to Brandenburg Rd. Turn left on Brandenburg
and go 1/2 mile to the park.
|Gates Open Daily at 8:00 a.m.
*Gates Close at:
February - March
April - May
Memorial Day Weekend – Labor Day
November – January
*Closing times are posted at site entrance, and are occasionally subject to change without notice