If you are ever traveling along 173 between Antioch and Rockford, Illinois, take time to stop off at the Tuttle Clarkson Nature Area. I have driven past it many times as my wife and I have traveled to visit her parents in Rockford. This time we were actually able to stop and explore it.
The Nature Area is actually not that big. It has two paths. One is a paved path that goes through a prairie area. That path is pretty uneventful and is extremely short. The best path is a grass path that takes you through the different habitats of the area. It is only about a half of a mile loop, but you go through at least three different areas. There is an upland woodland area, a sedge meadow area, an oak forest area, and - my favorite - the fen.
A fen is actually something I had never heard of before. It is a lot like a bog. The big difference is that whereas a bog has source of ground water that is not moving...the fen has a subterranean source of water that is moving beneath it. Peat is still formed and there are a lot of the same types of vegetation. Tuttle Clarkson takes you through the fen by means of a boardwalk and bridge system. It was a very cool experience...especially since a fen is a rare thing to see in northern Illinois.
It's great to see what happens when you take the time to explore somewhere new.