Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area
21950 North Riverwoods Road
Riverwoods, IL 60015
6:30 am–sunset, daily.
Rare species, rare communities and exceptional natural areas combine to make this a very special preserve. More than half of the land is so ecologically valuable that it is dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve and benefits from special protection rules.
The preserve's rich natural and cultural history is recognized by its dual designation as an Illinois Nature Preserve (a selection saved for ecologically high quality land) and as a Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places.
Due to its nature preserve designation, bicycles, snowmobiles, dogs, horses and other pets are not allowed at this preserve.
Over 6.5 miles of scenic trails wind through woods to the Des Plaines River. Trails here are open for hiking and, when snow is at least four inches deep, cross-country skiing.
Trails lead past historic buildings, next to the Des Plaines River and into a woodland dense enough to block out most human-made noises. Some visitors have even said that they feel transported far from Lake County as they follow the trails.
A variety of public programs and field trips for school and scout groups are offered here throughout the year.
Ryerson also hosts popular annual events like Maple Syrup Hikes, Celebrate Spring, Celebrate Fall, and Halloween Hikes. Stop in at the Welcome Center for a calendar of events and programs, or subscribe to Horizons, our free quarterly magazine. You can also read it online.
Literature comes alive with our Trail Tales bilingual English and Spanish exhibits displayed in a series of seven panels that tell the story of Miss Maple, a lady who flies about, gathering wayward seeds and helping them take root and grow.
Parents, grandparents and caregivers can hike the half-mile trail with young children, reading the story along the way. In addition, the tale leaps off the page through Trail Time activities suggested on each panel that help readers better understand the story’s theme by exploring the nature around them. Children are guided to hunt for seeds, pretend to be chipmunks and search for places seeds might take hold.
To encourage continued reading, each trail ends with a Little Free Library. This wooden box with a hinged door operates on a free-flowing honor system for users to take a book they can keep or return, or to contribute a book. The free library is pre-stocked with a selection of nature-related books.
The trail is accessible from the parking lot near Brushwood Center.
Borrow our nature themed backpacks filled with activities for families with children up to 10 years old to help you learn as you explore. The packs are free to use while in the preserve and can be checked out at the Welcome Center. A driver's license is held as deposit. Choose from four themes: plants, farm, birds, and nature.
At the small farm area, you may spot sheep, goats, and chickens. Be sure to also look for butterflies that visit the rain gardens.
Local history records document that Lake County’s first European settler, Captain Daniel Wright, owned property within the preserve. In the 1920s, a small number of families, including the Ryersons, Borlands and Fishers, purchased land here and built log cabins as weekend retreats. Learn more »
In 1942, the Ryersons built a summer estate home, which became the center of activity for their Brushwood Farm, known for its Arabian horses.
In 1966, the Ryerson family began to donate land to the Lake County Forest Preserves that eventually totaled 257 acres. The other families followed their lead and also donated and sold land enabling Ryerson Woods to grow to its current size.
The Natural Scene
Ryerson Woods supports some of Illinois' most pristine woodlands and several state threatened and endangered species. One of the best examples of a northern flatwoods forest, a rare northern Illinois landscape, and most of the floodplain forest left in northeastern Illinois can be found here. Learn more »
The preserve supports a variety of state threatened and endangered species. More than 150 bird species and nearly 600 species of flowering plants have been seen at Ryerson Woods. Springtime brings special wildflower magic and autumn puts on a dazzling show of color in the maple forest.
The entrance is on Riverwoods Road between Half Day Road (Route 22) and Deerfield Road, just west of the Interstate 94 Tollway.