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Small but

Might

TRAIL SYSTEMS THAT ARE SHORT ON DISTANCE, HIGH ON SCENERY AND EXPERIENCE

N

ot all hikes are created equal. And that’s a good thing.

LaSalle County is a region best seen on foot, and it boasts some of the state’s premier hiking — famously, the 13-mile trail system at Starved Rock State Park and the 61.5-mile mega-trek of the Illinois and Michigan Canal towpath.

But you can’t judge a hike by its length. Some of the county’s smaller trail systems are packed with nature and attractions for hikers of all experience levels to enjoy. Whether you’re in the mood to discover a lot of scenery in a short amount of time (and distance), looking for a small dose of nature between other activities, or hunting for easy trails for the youngest members of a family, there are options for everyone. Consider adding some of these mini-hikes during your visit.

The falls are accessible through a simple stroll, but for more adventurous visitors, the park features a system of 12 trails, most of which are half-mile loops or shorter. Spring Lake Nature Park’s trail system is an ideal option for families seeking easy access to nature. Six of the trails are mostly level, which are easy for young children to travel. For families with older children or adults, there are additional trails with steeper inclines, such as Overlook Trail or the narrow, sharp-descending Beaver Run path. The uphill climbs to ridges and overlooks can be accomplished in less than two minutes, with the rest of the trail on level ground.

That’s the call of the falls.

A highlight of the park is its swinging bridge. Like the falls, the bridge is accessible within a short walk from the parking lot. The shallow waters of Eagle Creek can be seen through the slats of the bridge, which bounces underfoot as hikers cross to reach six of the trail loops.

Spring Lake Falls is among the park’s bestloved and most scenic locations — and it’s less

Creek-crossers should be aware: The swinging bridge comes with a set of three

SPRING LAKE NATURE PARK 1413 E. 16th Road, Streator

From the moment your feet crunch into the parking lot’s gravel, you can hear the water.

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than a two-minute walk from the car. A short hike along a grassy path and over a wooden bridge opens onto a rocky waterside where hikers can view the gently sloping sandstoneformation waterfalls.

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rules. No. 1, no more than two people crossing at a time; No. 2, no running; and No. 3, absolutely no bouncing. On the trails, hikers will quickly and frequently encounter the two W’s: woods and water. Eagle Creek snakes in and out of the 37-acre nature area, repeatedly crossing paths with visitors. The wooded areas are home to more than 85 bird species, as well as deer, foxes, coyotes, beavers, snakes, frogs and wild flora. Hikers shouldn’t miss out on a photo opportunity with Spring Lake’s mightiest flora, which has its own trail. Big Tree Trail loops around a more than two-century-old cottonwood tree, which lives up to the name Big Tree. Horses and bikes can be ridden on the trails, and leashed dogs are welcome at the park, which is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Portable bathroom facilities are available in the parking area. Where is the lake? Despite the park’s name, there is no lake at the nature area. A springfed lake once existed in the area, and in the 1800s a dam was constructed to maintain the water level for commercial ice production in pre-refrigerator years. When ice was no longer a commercial venture, the dam was dismantled, creating the park’s current system

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3/27/20 4:28 PM

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The Official LaSalle County Visitor Guide_ 2020  

The Official LaSalle County Visitor Guide_ 2020  

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