Although it’s one of the county’s smaller forest preserves, the 264-acre Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn is home to an impressive range of habitats.
Babcock Grove, a savanna within the preserve, surrounds visitors with bur oak, white oak and black maple trees. This open woodland, which runs along both sides of St. Charles Road, is named for brothers Ralph and Morgan Babcock, two of the county’s first settlers of European descent.
Some of the grove’s white oaks date back to the 1830s, a time when settlers left seedlings untouched as they logged mature oaks for new plank roads. Some say Winslow Churchill complained about the noise from the horse-drawn traffic that clattered over the planks on St. Charles Road, which kept him awake at night. Within Babcock Grove, wildflower enthusiasts can look for a variety of interesting species, including Dutchman’s breeches, wild strawberry, yellow touch-me-not, with its long-seeded pods that spring open when touched, and hairy hog peanut, a legume with peanut-like nodules that grows in a former grazing area for hogs.
Churchill Prairie Nature Preserve contains one of the county’s few remaining native prairies. Home to several state-endangered and threatened species, the prairie is located in a sand and gravel outwash plain swale of the DuPage River Valley that is embedded in the surrounding Valparaiso moraine. It is the second largest native prairie in the county, with West Chicago Prairie Nature Preserve being the largest.
District staff and Natural Resource Management volunteers spend countless hours each year restoring this rare habitat, which the state designated as an Illinois Nature Preserve in 1992. Using prescription fires, brush clearing, seed planting and other restoration techniques, crews encourage the growth of native species.
The 1833 Treaty of Chicago provided for the United States’ acquisition and settlement of the last remaining American Indian land in Illinois, including land that would eventually become DuPage County. The treaty required all American Indians to resettle west of the Mississippi River over the next three years. During this time, a community of about 500 Potawatomi lived in present-day Churchill Woods as they waited for the government to send them west.
In 1834, Winslow and Mercy Churchill, who left Syracuse, N.Y., in search of rich farmland after their own farm was purchased for the Erie Canal, settled on the western edge of today’s Churchill Woods Forest Preserve. The Churchills became prosperous farmers who earned a prominent reputation among the citizens of developing Glen Ellyn and Lombard as well as Milton Township, which they helped to establish. Their combined claims stretched from present-day Route 53 on the east, North Avenue on the north, Main Street in Glen Ellyn on the west and Crescent Boulevard on the south — all bought for $1.25 an acre.
The Forest Preserve District acquired the first portion of Churchill Woods from Eliza Churchill in 1935. Its final significant acquisition, which included the 65-acre prairie on the north side of St. Charles Road, was in 1968.
The 0.6-mile Regional Trail offers hiking, biking and bird-watching opportunities year-round. In winter snows add cross-country skiing to the lineup. Because the trail runs through the Churchill Prairie Nature Preserve, bicycles, horses and pets must remain on the trail at all times.
Churchill Woods has long been a favorite DuPage County picnic spot with several scenic sites along the river. Groups can reserve the shelter or one of two open picnic areas through Visitor Services at (630) 933-7248 but must do so at least three business days before their visit.
Ground fires are not allowed, but visitors can bring their own grills and use the on-site hot-coal disposal containers. For everyone’s convenience, restrooms with pit toilets are located throughout the preserve.
A series of flagstone terraces offers anglers improved access to the East Branch of the DuPage River as they fish for bluegill, carp, crappie, sunfish and largemouth bass. Other shoreline improvements have included the addition of emergent native vegetation along shallower areas of the river and the installation of a 10-foot-wide pedestrian bridge between the west and central picnic areas and an island.
Anglers 16 or older who are not legally disabled must carry valid Illinois sport fishing licenses, and all anglers must follow all District and state regulations.
Each of Churchill Woods’ two wooded youth-group campsites has picnic tables and a fire ring and is near restrooms with pit toilets, drinking water, trash and recycling containers, and firewood. As part of Districtwide efforts to help slow the spread of the emerald ash borer, outside firewood is not allowed.
Open year-round, these camping areas are set aside for use by youth groups. The District defines youth groups as recognized, nonprofit organizations. Only members of these groups, with their accompanying leaders, may camp in these areas. Camping permits and adult supervision of one leader over 21 years of age for every 10 children are mandatory for campsite use. Groups can reserve sites through Visitor Services at (630) 933-7248 but must do so at least three business days in advance.
Working under the direction of the Office of Natural Resources, volunteer site stewards and “Volunteer Restoration Workday” participants help to monitor and manage the Churchill Prairie Nature Preserve and the special woodland adjacent to the Prairie Path that rests on a kame, a hill shaped by glacial meltwaters. For information on volunteer opportunities at Churchill Woods and other forest preserves, visit the Natural Resource Management volunteer page, or contact Volunteer Services at (630) 933-7681 or email@example.com.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is committed to making its facilities accessible to all visitors. For special accessibility needs or concerns, please contact the District’s ADA coordinator at (630) 933-7683 or TTY (800) 526-0857 at least three business days in advance of your visit.