The preserve was originally a private estate for rail magnate William V. Kelley, who purchased the property in the early 1900s from John Mines, an immigrant farmer from Ireland. Hired to design the landscape was Jens Jensen, one of the most significant landscape architects in Chicago history.
Jen Jensen's preliminary sketch of the Kelley estate grounds.
The Natural Scene
The preserve includes an old growth oak-hickory woodland, which features a large grove of massive bur and white oaks estimated to be over 220 years old. There is also an oak-basswood woodland and two grassland areas with remnant and restored prairie, including “Birch Prairie.”
Jensen excavated the large kidney-shaped pond to match a smaller one next to Green Bay Road. The pond’s good water quality supports regionally uncommon fish. Jensen also lined banks of the Skokie River with Wisconsin Lannon Stone for a touch of class.
The preserve serves as a keystone in a larger landscape of 240 acres of protected natural areas with Lake Bluff Open Lands, Lake Forest Open Lands and private landowners owning the rest. Approximately 40 acres are dedicated as State Nature Preserve status.
Parking is not available at Oriole Grove Forest Preserve.
Parking and trail access is available only from the Skokie River Prairie on Route 176, west of Green Bay Road in Lake Bluff, or the Skokie River Nature Preserve on the west end of Laurel Avenue, west of Green Bay Road in Lake Forest.
Please follow the rules specific to Lake Bluff Open Lands and Lake Forest Open Lands when using their properties.