Sagawau Environmental Learning Center: The Only Canyon in Cook County, Great Hiking and Cross-Country Skiing, and Much More

Sagawau Environmental Learning Center (12545 West 111th Street, Lemont, IL 60439, 630/257-2045, Facebook) is a perfect destination in all seasons.

In the spring and summer, visit it for wildflower viewing, birdwatching (more than 100 species of migrant and resident birds are found at the center), a diverse range of hiking trails (there are 2.6 miles of trails; click here for a trail map), and guided tours of Sagawau Canyon, the only canyon in Cook County, which offers uncommon and unusual plants (including bulblet fern, purple cliff brake, walking fern, hairy rock cress, and ninebark) and rock formations. A Hummingbird Festival is also held each summer.

Copyright Forest Preserves of Cook County/Sagawau Environmental Learning Center

In the fall, continue to enjoy hiking and birdwatching (click here for a Forest Preserves of Cook County Birding List), but also savor the beautiful fiery reds, gorgeous golds, pumpkin oranges, and banana yellows of the forest canopy in this heavily wooded area.

In the winter, go cross-country skiing (weather permitting, of course) on groomed trails that are appropriate for both novice and advanced skiers. Sagawau Nordic is open the third week of December through the first weekend in March. Contact the Center for firm opening/closing dates and information on rental costs and ski lessons. Warm up in the lodge after your ski adventure.

In all seasons, Sagawau Environmental Learning Center’s visitor center and classroom offers exhibits on geology, natural history and habitat management, Native American and early settler history, and much more. Indoor and outdoor educational programs are frequently offered.  

Upcoming 2019 programs include:

Fall Color Palette (sketching): Saturday, October 19, 2019, 1:00 p.m.

Fall Color Walk: Sunday, October 20, 1:00 p.m.

Red Gate Woods: Beginning of the Atomic Age: Sunday, October 27, 9 :00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Lichen Lab: Saturday, November 2, 1:00 p.m.

Nature Sketching: Sunday, November 3, 1:00 p.m.

Conservation@Home: Composting for a Sustainable Lifestyle: Saturday, November 9, 10:00 a.m. to 12 :00 p.m.

Fossil Quarry Tour: Sunday, November 17, 10:00 a.m.

Restoration Workday: Saturday, November 23, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Winter Bird Feeding: Sunday, November 24, 1:00 p.m.

Fall Hike: Saturday, November 30, 1:00 p.m.

You must sign up for these programs, as well as the canyon tours, ahead of time by calling 630/257-2045.

Sagawau Environmental Learning Center is open year-round except on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Before attending a program, be sure to confirm dates and times with the center.

Daily Hours

Building: 9:00 4:00 p.m.

Grounds: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Pets are not permitted on nature center grounds, including the parking lots.

After you’ve finished your visit, check out my articles on the following destinations:

Sag Quarries (just west of the center)

Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve (literally across from the center on Route 83)

Swallow Cliff (4 miles south of the center)

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center (about 5 miles northeast of the center)

Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens (about 7 miles south of the center)

Black Partridge Woods (about 7 miles west of the center)

Keepataw Preserve (about 7 miles west of the center)

Copyright (text/photos, except the photo of Sagawau Canyon) Andrew Morkes, Founder & Author of Nature in Chicagoland

3 thoughts on “Sagawau Environmental Learning Center: The Only Canyon in Cook County, Great Hiking and Cross-Country Skiing, and Much More

  1. I don’t believe I ever knew we had a canyon in Cook County. Thanks for all the info and photos. It looks as if you and Liam had a great time and it’s not too far away either.

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

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