Will County’s Messenger Woods is simply a treasure and a beauty for our region. Wandering these trails in autumn as the leaves turn is simply sublime.
Messenger Woods Nature Preserve engages birdwatchers and prairie lovers as the home of Virginia bluebells and wild geranium as well as the Cooper’s hawk and the rare veery. The restored wetlands provide a natural catchbasin for rainwater, therefore helping to reduce flooding and replenish clean groundwater. Future trail and interpretive elements will allow visitors to immerse themselves in this diverse and dynamic landscape.
Openlands is working with the Forest Preserve District of Will County to restore wetland, prairie, and savanna habitats of Messenger Woods, a dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve, in an effort that will enable wildlife to thrive, help reduce flooding, and enhance groundwater recharge.
The preserve is home to over 60 species of birds as well as a variety of plant species, including a spectacular display of spring wildflowers, such as blue-eyed Mary, showy trillium, wild geranium and hepatica.
In 2008, Openlands began restoration at Messenger Woods as part of a larger restoration program across the Des Plaines River Watershed in conjunction with the Chicago District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Department of Aviation. Funding for these projects was made available by the O’Hare Modernization Program, which seeks to offset the impact on aquatic resources caused by the expansion of Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Following restoration, several of these sites were enrolled in the Illinois Nature Preserve System, acknowledging the high quality efforts. When the entire project is completed, this $25 million effort will support rehabilitation and enhancement of over 1,500 acres of habitat, and the project has already influenced the direction of ecological restoration across our region.
Forest Preserve District of Will County
Messenger Woods Nature Preserve features 1.87 miles of natural surface trail, ideal for hiking/running. The 1.36 miles of natural surface trail outside of the designated nature preserve are also ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Due to the sensitivity of the site’s natural resources, dogs are not allowed in the nature preserve.