Espencheid  Forest Preserve: Photo - Winnebago County Forest Preserve District
Perhaps the best way to discover and explore the Kishwaukee is to hike the seven-mile linear trail between Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve and Espencheid Forest Preserve

The Setting
The Kishwaukee River is located in northern Illinois near the Wisconsin border. The Kishwaukee, Pecatonica and Green rivers form the principal drainage of the Rock River. Originating near Woodstock in McHenry County, the Kishwaukee basin has an area of 1,250 square miles. The Kishwaukee River area includes portions of six counties - Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Ogle, DeKalb, and Kane. Its river valley is open oak woodland and prairie country on low undulating land; steeper topography occurs in the northern parts of Boone and Winnebago counties. The majority of the land is devoted to agriculture (79%), with croplands accounting for two-thirds of the surface area.

The River
The main stream of the Kishwaukee is formed by two branches (called North Branch and South Branch, respectively) that unite about 12 miles above the river's mouth. The Kish­waukee joins the Rock three miles south of Rockford. The northern branch originates in Woodstock in McHenry County and flows in an east-west direction to Cherry Valley. The average width is 50 feet, but as the stream flows past the Boone County line it becomes wider and deeper. The substrate in the upper reaches is gravel but changes to sand and silt as it proceeds downstream. Its flow is generally unimpeded, except for a dam in Belvidere. The southern branch has its origin high upon the Cropsey Moraine, just north of Shabbona. It flows in a northeasterly direction until the village of Genoa where it turns left, flowing west-northwest. The southern branch cuts across moraines and part of its stream bed is the plain of an ancient lake. The average width is 55 feet and the substrate is generally rock, strewn with a mixture of sand and gravel. North of Sycamore the stream has been mined for gravel.

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