In the west of Lake County lies one of Illinois’ unique natural communities, Volo Bog. Over 10,000 years ago, during the end of the last Ice Age, a chuck of retreating glacial ice lodged itself deep in the ground at what is now Volo Bog. Several thousand years later the remnant lake began to fill with salt and vegetation, creating the wetlands present today. Volo Bog is technically known as a quaking bog because vegetation floats atop the open water. Yes, all the surrounding plant life and trees in the picture above are floating. Over time, the absence of waves will allow the plant life to slowly expand further onto the water, eventually covering the entire site.
The center of Volo Bog is called the Eye, and it is far more than a simple, ordinary pond. The Eye of Volo Bog is the only remaining open-water quaking bog in Illinois and the southernmost quaking bog in North America to show all the stages of bog succession.
From a birds-eye view, Volo Bog looks like a eye (hence the nickname maybe?), with five distinct layers of vegetation surrounding the ‘pupil.’ Each of the five rings support different varieties of plants and each marks different durations of time that plants have expanded over the open water. The three inner-most rings, made up herbs and shrubs, are floating on water that’s 50 feet deep! Here you’ll see plants like white water lilies, water shields, and highbrush blueberries, as well as tamarack and bog birch trees. You may even notice a scent of peat in the air.
As you walk the boardwalk, keep an eye out for the changes in plant life that you pass, and the signage along the way will point out some of the unique features.
Volo Bog is managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources
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.