Ethel's Woods

WHERE IS THIS?
19330 Miller Road
Antioch,IL 60002
Acerage:
501 acres
Hours:
6:30 am–sunset, daily.

Ethel's Woods

Experience the beauty of this picturesque landscape reminiscent of a north woods setting as you hike, bike or cross-country ski along the preserve's 1.4 miles of gravel trails. Four scenic overlooks take full advantage of gently rolling hills and unobstructed views in the preserve. 

A short section of the planned Millennium Trail will run along the preserve's western edge. A new pedestrian tunnel under Route 45 to safely connect Ethel's Woods to neighboring 575-acre Raven Glen Forest Preserve is in the process of being built. Learn more about this project. Combined, these two large preserve's create a natural greenway corridor for better land management, wildlife protection and expanded outdoor recreation opportunities.

Activities

Amenities

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More About This Preserve

History

In October 2000, the Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to name a forest preserve in tribute to Ethel Untermyer, who directed a successful referendum campaign in 1958 that formed the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Ethel took action to fulfill the request of her 3-year-old son, Frank, who wanted a place to play in the woods. 

After aquiring 494 acres of land here in 2001, the Board chose to name this preserve in honor of Ethel's historic contributions in protecting the quality of life in Lake County. An additional 6.8 acres was acquired in 2006. 

 

The Natural Scene

Transforming an impaired lake into a healthy, meandering stream that naturally goes with the flow took years of watershed planning and patience. It has become the single largest, most complex land and water management project our ecologists and planners have ever tackled.

From the trail overlooks, you'll see the impressive results of this major ecological restoration effort to improve water quality and reestablish the native landscapes of Ethel's Woods. It took 12 years to complete. Many discussions by our ecologists and land planners at the start of the project focused on the preserve's serpentine-shaped lake. 

Historically, North Mill Creek meandered through what is now Ethel's Woods. In 1957, the property owner dammed the creek by building a 600-foot-long earthen dam to create a 58-acre man-made lake, which was named after the family––Rasmussen Lake.

When the Lake County Forest Preserves acquired the land in 2001, staff conducted aquatic surveys of the lake and studied restoration options with an advisory committee of scientists and permitting agencies. At first glance, Rasmussen Lake seemed possible for recreation use, but beneath the surface were real problems. The shallow lake, fed by North Mill Creek, was in bad shape. The banks of Rasmussen Lake were eroded with steep drop-offs. The basin was a mucky mess, packed with several feet of thick, pudding-like sediment built up behind the dam. Dams are barriers to nature's cleansing process. They hold and store pollutants instead of cleaning them. In terms of overall water quality and clarity, the lake was in poor health, ranking next to last among the 162 lakes monitored by the Lake County Health Department. 

Faced with options on how best to proceed––do nothing, dredge the lake, or restore the stream––the Forest Preserve Board chose nature's way. In 2007, they made the decision to restore the original flow of North Mill Creek through Ethel's Woods. And, they approved measures to remove the dam and slowly drain the lake to allow a new stream channel and floodplain to be constructed, ultimately returning the landscape to a more natural state. A $1.5 million Clean Water Act grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency helped fund the restoration. 

Along the eastern edge of this preserve are 170 acres of century-old bur oak, white oak, shagbark hickory and black walnut trees. Scattered throughout the preserve's oak-hickory woodlands are small, isolated forest ponds that hold water in the spring and early fall. These ponds, along with two Advanced Identification (ADID) wetlands bordering the high-quality Old Mill Creek stream corridor, provide valuable wildlife habitat and food sources for a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles.

Read more about the evolution of Ethel's Woods in the winter 2018 issue of our Horizons magazine.

Location

The entrance to Ethel's Woods is located on Miller Road, east of Route 45, and just south of Route 173 in Antioch.

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