As you travel through this river valley, look for changes in the landscape. In northern Lake County, the valley is wide and the river meanders. Open areas such as prairies and savannas are common. In southern Lake County, the valley is narrow and the river runs a straighter course. Woodlands are more common. The river and its seasonal rising and falling help determine which plants and animals live here. Beaver, herons and turtles are a few of the native animals adapted to river life. Oaks, hickories and maples are some of the common trees.
A Fire-Blocking River
Notice that to the west of the river, prairies and savannas are common, while on the eastern bank of the river, you'll find maple woodlands. This is due to the river itself, blocking ancient wildfires that raged from the west. Maples cannot withstand fire, but the oaks of a savanna can. Keep this in mind when searching for good autumn color, and head to the maples at Captain Daniel Wright Woods.
When 12 forest preserves lie along a continuous path within a river valley, many good things happen for nature. Animals and plants, through their seed and pollen, are not cut off from each other and are less restricted in their movement. For such things as tiny frogs, rare butterflies and delicate wildflowers, which stay strong only through a genetic mix with other groups of their kin, the Greenway is a gift.
At Work 24/7
Flood protection is a key natural benefit, with lowlands poised to safely reduce damage from heavy rains and snowmelt entering the river. The Greenway not only stores water, it cleanses it too. Cleaner air and higher property values are two other Greenway rewards worth noting.