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Lake County Forest Preserves | Preservation, Restoration, Education and Recreation

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Edward L. Ryerson Welcome Center



Address

21950 North Riverwoods Road
Riverwoods, IL 60015
847-968-3320

Hours

9 am–5 pm, Tuesday–Saturday; 11 am–4 pm, Sundays; restroom only, Mondays. Closed for New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Maps

Facility Map
Directions

Acreage

565 acres

Activities

Exhibits
Hike Lake County Challenge
Summer Camps

Amenities

Flush Toilets
Heated Restrooms
Drinking Water
Public Parking

Programs

School & Scout

Volunteer at Ryerson Woods

Related Sites

Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area

Related Documents

Countywide Map and Guide

Welcome Center Sustainability

The close inter-relationship of humans and nature at Ryerson Woods is plainly evident in the form and function of the Welcome Center. Designed as a model of green architecture, the building was added to the site in 2006 with minimal impact on the preserve’s environment and ecology.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Platinum LEED Certified

The building employs a number of sustainable strategies, from material choices to the use of natural light, geothermal heating and cooling, and recycled rainwater. Learn more »

Certified at the highest level by the U.S Green Building Council, this Platinum LEED building offers both environmental and financial benefits over time. Here are just a few:

  • Total utility bill is a fraction of the cost of that of a standard building of the same size.
  • Because the water won’t puddle, we expect the porous asphalt parking lot to weather longer than standard paving.
  • Metal roof should last at least 50 years, unlike a shingled roof which typically lasts 15–20 years.
  • After just eight years, the geoexchange system will have paid for itself in energy savings.

Storm Water Management

Responsible rainwater management was a top priority when we designed the Welcome Center at Ryerson Woods. Planned as a model of green architecture, the site makes use of several innovative, environmentally friendly strategies for resource management. A three-pronged approach helps keep storm water at the site from becoming floodwater. Learn more »

Strategy 1: Collect It

Beneath the Welcome Center lies a swimming-pool-sized cistern, a cement tank that holds rainwater collected from the rooftop. Pipes connect the roof gutters to the cistern, which stores up to 60,000 gallons of rainwater for the fire protection sprinkler system. The harvested rainwater is wise insurance in case of fire, but we realized it could also be tapped for another, more mundane purpose: flushing our public toilets.

Strategy 2: Store It

Hard surfaces of parking lots usually redirect rain into catch basins or storm sewers. We wanted to be innovative with our parking lot. After researching many options that would allow water to flow through the surface, not over it, we chose porous asphalt for the surface of the parking lot.

Though the look of the surface is similar to standard asphalt, the recipe for the asphalt is significantly different. Standard asphalt is a mixture of a black gooey liquid, small rocks and particles of sand, grit and dust. These tiny particles help to bind the mixture together after it is laid and rolled. Recipes for porous asphalt read differently: thoroughly wash gravel, mix with black gooey liquid, roll lightly. The result is asphalt that contains small spaces between the gravel pieces. These spaces are large enough to allow water to flow through. Water from rain and melted snow doesn’t puddle on the surface, it simply disappears.

Strategy 3: Absort It

Two rain gardens handle any remaining storm water. Each rain garden has a depression that collects rainwater from the roof of the building. Before planting, the soil in the rain gardens was modified to drain quickly. Water seldom sits more than 36 hours in the rain garden before it is absorbed. The gardens are planted with native palnts that are adapted to thrive in great variety of weather conditions in northern Illinois. Consequently, they require no special treatment. Their blossoms add color to the gardens starting in spring and ending in late autumn. The butterflies and birds that come to visit are an added bonus.

Part of what makes these approaches so successful is that they allow nature's processes to take care of the natural ebb and flow of the water cycle. Our long-time goal is to manage land along the Des Plaines River. Backwater areas and wetlands near the river help to hold excess water. When the river level lowers, the wetlands slowly release the water back into the stream, often in a more pure state. Restored wetlands throughout the county are efficient at water storage. Not only can these habitats help to reduce local flooding, but they also help to recharge the groundwater aquifer. This is good news for areas of Lake County that rely on wells for drinking water.

Making Waves

A seismic recording station is installed at Ryerson to help research scientists gain a better understanding of our planet’s structure and processes. It's one of 2,000 USArray stations installed across the country as part of the National Science Foundation’s EarthScope initiative. 

View recorded activity at the Ryerson station and learn about earthquakes at an information kiosk located in the Welcome Center, or online at Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.

Educational Opportunities

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.

Trail Tales

Literature comes alive with our Trail Tales bilingual English and Spanish exhibits displayed in a series of seven panels that tell a story about nature.

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. 

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.

Explore Backpacks

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.

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