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16. June 2016 · Comments Off on The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have to Visit · Categories: Articles

By: Andrew Van Gorp  15 June, 2016.

The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit1) Greene Valley Overlook <—Click

This Overlook is the highest point in DuPage County open to the public (Mallard Lake landfill is the actual highest point, but it’s not open to the public yet, for safety reasons). We do think it’s kind of hilarious that the most gorgeous view of DuPage can only be seen from atop DuPage’s second-tallest landfill. However, we also choose to think of the Greene Valley Scenic Overlook as a metaphor for Humanity’s need to climb up to the top of all the destruction we’ve caused this sweet ol’ planet of ours so we can finally gain some much-needed PERSPECTIVE for our collective futures. In this life, we need where we’ve been to get to where we’re goin’. You know? Check out this video we made about the view from the top.


The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit

2) The DuPage River Confluence

We cheated a little bit- this spot isn’t exactly in DuPage. You might be asking yourself, “what exactly is a ‘confluence?” Well, our County actually got it’s name from the DuPage River. (And the River got it’s name from a french fur-trapper whose first name has apparently been lost to history). There are two “Branches” of the DuPage River- the East Branch in the East and the West Branch in the…well, you get the idea. These two rivers flow South through our County and eventually join together. That’s the confluence. (Awwwww, East meets West- Cuuuuuuuuute). The newly-formed DuPage River flows into the Des Plaines River, the Kankakee River, the Illinois River, the Mississippi, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit

We couldn’t even find a photo online of the Confluence- we had to go out and take one- that’s how much of a little-known treasure this spot is!  Take some time to wade calf deep (at your own risk) on a hot day and contemplate the sacredness of water. We did, and it was awesome.

The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit

3) The Oldest Tree in DuPage 

The oldest tree in DuPage County hatched from its acorn in 1777! To give you a taste of what was going on in DuPage at that time, the proto-country that would later become the United States- was at war…WITH BRITAIN. Yeah. That’s pretty cool. We have trees that were alive during the Revolutionary War, and you can go and TOUCH THEM. We can’t tell you which Bur Oak it is, but we can get you pretty close.

The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit4) The Winfield Mounds

These mounds aren’t naturally occurring, but they are definitely natural wonders. The Winfield Mounds are burial mounds from more than a thousand years ago. These mounds were built by Native Americans as sacred resting places for their family members. The mounds were desecrated in the 1920’s and now lie empty of sacred relics. We’re thankful that this person created a guide on how to get to the mounds, because the way there is (understandably) not widely-published. Consider taking a trip out to the mounds to honor the lives of America’s First Peoples and take a moment to remember the atrocities that were perpetrated here in our region. Perhaps learn more about the cultures of the Prairie Band or Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Nation and where they live today- or perhaps about the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forcibly exiled the remaining Native American inhabitants of DuPage County West of the Mississippi River. This sacred site reminds us that we have much to learn from Native American cultures about how to live sustainably in this place, and that there is still much healing and reconciliation that needs to happen in DuPage County.

The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit

(Photo from

5) The DuPage Waterfall

Fun fact- Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve was not named for the waterfall there, but actually an early Board President whose last name was Waterfall. Ha. Anyway, this waterfall provides tons of fun for the whole family, but we’re pretty sure you’re technically not supposed to play in it. So, obviously we can’t advocate that you do play in it- but on most days there’s no one around to stop someone from playing in it, so, if someone chose to waterfall it up (at their own discretion)…… our point is that you don’t have to drive five hours to visit a waterfall! You can do it right here in DuPage on your day off, or over the weekend, or commit to visiting it every day for a whole month and see what you learn, like spiritually, or something. 


The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit

Photo from

6) The Lakes

You can bring your own kayak/canoe to one of three lakes in DuPage: Silver Lake, Round Meadow Lake, or Mallard Lake. When you bring your K/C to one of those three lakes, you must purchase an annual Forest Preserve Permit and an annual Illinois Department of Natural Resources Water Usage stamp and then it’s smooth sailing (pun intended) from there. If you don’t want to purchase these certificates, you also have the option to rent a boat at Silver Lake or Herrick Lake instead. (If you rent a kayak/canoe from the County you have to wear a Life Vest no matter what your age). 

The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit

7) The Rivers

Before you ask- yes, this photo was taken on the West Branch. You can enter/exit the East Branch, West Branch, or Salt Creek anywhere in any forest preserve, except for at the Oak Meadows Golf Course. If you K/C the DuPage Rivers or Salt Creek, you only need the annual IDNR Water Usage Stamp (not the FP Permit- $—>$aved)! The DuPage County Forest Preserves offer river access points at six different places at the bottom of this linked page, in a chart. On a river/creek, if you are 14 or older, you have to have a life jacket in your watercraft. If you are 13 or younger, you also have to be wearing that life jacket while you are in the watercraft.  

***A Note on Dams: There was no readily available (updated) information on dams in DuPage anywhere- just mentions that they exist and that they might be fatal to kayakers and canoeists(!). (#frustrating, #icantevenrightnow, #YouCanActuallyFollowSustainDuPageOnTwitter). So we went ahead and did some research. There are four dams left in DuPage County, and you should probably know about them. There are signs along the rivers to warn ‘yakkers and ‘noeists about the dams. The dams create a unique current that is dangerous, so pay attention to where you’re going and always plan out your trip before you leave your house. This is a good map of waterways, albeit a little outdated (2007)– we’re pretty sure the only dams that are currently remaining from this map are the Graham Center Dam, Old Oak Dam, and the Grace Mill Dam on the Salt Creek and the Fawell Dam on the West Branch. (Special thanks to the Conservation Foundation for clearing up which dam’ dams have yet to be removed from the rivers).

The Seven Natural Wonders of DuPage You Have To Visit

7) The Largest Prairie

If you are visiting the Oldest Tree, you might as well visit the Largest Prairie too! (They’re both at West Chicago Prairie). Did you know that .0001 percent of Illinois’ original prairie still remains today? (With less and less every day). Yeah. Imagine we were saying that about another ecosystem like the Amazon. Now consider that prairies were once one of the best sequesterers of carbon in the world. DuPage County hosts a few small fragments of prairie that have never been fully destroyed! West Chicago Prairie is our largest prairie, and we’re lucky- because it hosts 126 acres of remnant prairie. Without this prairie in DuPage County being protected, several species could (and probably would) go extinct forever. There are no picnic areas, dog parks, or other such amenities. If you want to see what our homeland looked like thousands of years ago, visit the West Chicago Prairie. But tell someone where you are going before you go- it’s a really big space by our suburban standards!

***A Note on ADA Accessibility.

Sustain DuPage is passionate about accessibility for the entire community to all the natural wonders of our County. The graph below comes from a Visitor Guide buried deep in a PDF linked on the DuPage County Forest Preserve’s website- so we wanted to make sure to repost it here so that no one misses it!

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 3.23.58 PM

Happy DuPaging Y’all!

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