BY ANDREW MORKES, FOUNDER OF NATURE IN CHICAGOLAND
Today is the six-year anniversary of my blog, Nature in Chicagoland, and I’m so happy to have written more than 225 articles about the woods, wetlands, prairies, lakes, and other natural areas that make up Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. I’m pleased that Nature in Chicagoland has had more than 61,000 views in its six years, with most of these numbers being accrued in the last three years. That’s exciting because what writer wouldn’t want readers. But it’s more gratifying to have visited so many wonderful nature destinations and share this information with people in the area. Don’t let anyone tell you that Chicagoland nature is boring. In the past year, I visited diverse natural areas at Middlefork Savanna Nature Preserve, Bluff Spring Fen, Illinois Beach State Park, Pine Dunes Forest Preserve, Volo Bog State Natural Areas, Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve, multiple destinations in the Galena area, Big Marsh Park, North Park Village Nature Center, Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Preserve, Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, and many other destinations.
During the past six years, I’ve filled you in on how to see trolls, bison, sandhill cranes, ghosts, and rare and endangered species in the Midwest. I’ve interviewed nature authors, photographers, filmmakers, artists, politicians (including candidates for Chicago mayor and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago), and others who care about natural places in Chicagoland. And I’ve occasionally taken a break from nature to tell stories about my parents and beloved family and friends or discuss an issue that’s important to me—such as gun control; stopping gerrymandering by both political parties; saving a historical building or church, warning against the dangers of Amerca’s far right (including those who tried to overturn a fair and free presidential election on January 6, 2021); and protecting the work of our nation’s hardworking journalists. One of the best parts of writing a blog (as opposed to writing books for other people—a big part of my day job) is the fact that I can write about whatever I want, and that’s a great feeling! Another great thing: getting the chance to talk with some very nice people about nature via the comments section of the site, as well as via email and in person. It’s a satisfying feeling when someone you’ve never met from Wisconsin, Michigan, or Chicagoland takes the time to comment on your blog or send you an email.
In 2021, I published my book, Nature in Chicagoland: More Than 120 Fantastic Nature Destinations That You Must Visit, which includes stories from the blog, but also covers more than 70 new places. It was fun to roam Chicagoland visiting nature sites of all types in order to conduct “research” for the book. I treasure Nature in Chicagoland because it’s a time capsule of our time with our son—from age six to age 11—in the outdoors. My nearly 13-year-old is now taller than me, which is both humbling and wonderful—as I watch him grow into a kind, thoughtful young man. It’s a little harder to get him to join me for hikes these days, but we’ve still had some fun adventures in the last year. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, my dad shared his love of nature with me, and in the 2010s and beyond, my wife and I were lucky enough to share it with him. When he is older, I hope my son continues to spread the word about the Chicagoland’s wonderful outdoors to his children and grandchildren.
It’s been a rewarding six years, and I look forward to telling you about many of my favorite destinations in Chicagoland over the next year. Look for stories on Harlem Hills Nature Preserve, Hegewisch Marsh, Lowden State Park, Kankakee River State Park, Rock Cut State Park, and much more in year seven.
And Bell Bowl Prairie still needs saving, but its status does not look good. It’s been wonderful to see so many people caring about and loving this remnant patch of original Illinois prairie that may be swallowed up by the Chicago-Rockford International Airport expansion. Not finding a way to save 5 acres of pristine prairie with rare and endangered species living on it is both a failure of imagination and a moral failure by airport executive director Mike Dunn and the other powers that be. Profit and perceived “progress” need to stop being the prime motivating factors in this world. You can learn more about the fight to save Bell Bowl Prairie by clicking here. If the bulldozers soon destroy this beautiful patch of prairie, let’s remember to repay those who let us down during the next elections and through other legal means.
But before I move on, here were the most popular nature posts of the first six years at Nature in Chicagoland.
1. Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve: The Wildest Place in Cook County
2. Seven Places to See Bison in the Midwest
3. Palmisano Park: A Hidden Gem in Chicago
4. Nippersink Creek Provides a Great Kayaking or Canoeing Adventure Just an Hour From Chicago
5. Red Gate Woods: Hawks and Hills, Sloughs and Snakes, and Ghosts and Buried Nuclear Waste, Oh My!
6. Eleven Things to Do at Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens
7. Sixteen South Chicagoland Nature Wonders: Great Destinations on the South Side and in the South Suburbs to Check Out This Weekend and Beyond
8. West Ridge Nature Preserve: An Oasis in Chicago
9. Black Partridge Woods: Cool Ravines, Great Hiking, and 6 Other Reasons to Visit
10. Effigy Mounds National Monument: Massive Bears, Stunning Views, and Thousands of Years of Native American History
Thanks for reading and supporting Nature in Chicagoland. Have a great year outdoors!
Copyright (text/photos) Andrew Morkes
Looking for some great nature destinations in Chicagoland? If so, I just published Nature in Chicagoland: More Than 120 Fantastic Nature Destinations That You Must Visit. It features amazing destinations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Click on the title to learn more. The book has 306 pages and 210+ photos and is only $18.99. Click here to purchase the book.
ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 50 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.