If you’ve ever floated on the Fox River in Kendall County, you likely passed Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area or even put your boats, kayak or canoe in there. Silver Springs is located along the Fox River just south of Plano and across the river from the historic, and very famous, Farnworth House (locally known as the “glass house”).
Silver Springs is about 3,000 acres large and a very popular park and used by many people in the area. It has a diverse array of activities besides hiking, such as horse trails, hunting and camping areas, and spring-fed lakes and ponds for fishing, even trout during the season.
The popular and most used trails are in the east part of the park (east entrance) along the river. There, you’ll see why the place is named “Silver Springs,” due to the many spring seeps along the terrace heading to the river. The main spring is along a trail and flows year-round and you can see the “silvery” groundwater bubble up from the ground and flowing through a thick bed of water cress, which stays green all year. See the picture below.
The best trails for spring wildflowers are in the west side (separate entrance) inside the loop road. The park staff manage this area and you can tell. There are plenty of places to park and hop on one of these trails, and lots of places to picnic.
My favorite place to hike there is actually on the far west end of the park near the old group camping area. It’s a separate entrance off of Fox River Drive (west side) and you’ll have to park in front of the gate and walk the road back to the “secret trail.” I’m not even sure the trail has a name, but it’s less than a 2-mile loop. Very few people know about this trail (now you and many others will!), but it’s worth spilling the beans.
Walk to the end of the group camping road and then the road turns into a trail up on top of the river running parallel with the Fox River. Go straight and you’ll walk into the woods and down a little slope and come to a fork in the trail. The sign has an arrow pointing left, but I suggest turning right (it’s a loop so either way is fine). You’ll walk down into a really neat, wet ravine that has more springs, great bird habitat, wildflowers including skunk cabbage, and water flowing to the river. Follow the narrow trail and you’ll eventually be walking along the river until you come to an opening, which is a utility easement. Turn left and walk up the hill away from the river. When my wife and I were there recently the indigo buntings were singing and flying everywhere. They like that forest edge habitat.
At the top of the hill and before the farm field, you’ll see a narrow trail opening to your left. Hop in there and it’ll take you back to the fork in the trail with the sign, which you’ll then turn right and it’ll take you back to the road and your car.
What we like about this trail the most is that it is off the beaten path a bit. We have only seen a few people out there and I suspect it’ll stay that way for some time since it’s far from the main park area and all the activity. It’s also a great trail to hike in the winter. The path is dirt and narrow, and in the spring the wildflowers are pretty good. The trail goes up a down a little, which makes for fun hiking and seeing different habitats. There is a lot to see on this trail!
I like to share with you the many cool places we have explored in our area in hopes you’ll consider heading out and explore different areas. It’s easy to always go to the same place to walk and hike all the time. I get it. But challenge yourself to explore new areas every now and then and you’ll grow to appreciate the wide variety and diversity of some of the 250,000 acres of natural areas preserved in the Chicago region for all of us, and future generations, to explore.
The main spring at Silver Springs.
We like the narrow trails through the woods- full of wildflowers!
The wild geraniums are hard to pass by without taking a picture.
Written by Brook McDonald, President/CEO