Ray Lake visitors can hike, ride bikes or horses, and cross-country ski on a 2.3-mile gravel trail that winds around wetlands and open prairies. The trail also includes three boardwalks and a scenic overlook. Please keep dogs leashed and on trails at all times, and pick up after them. Learn about our off-leash Dog Parks (permit required).
The nearest horse trailer parking is at adjacent Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda, with access to Ray Lake via the Fort Hill Trail. A trail tunnel at Gilmer Road offers Fort Hill Trail users a safe connection between Lakewood and Ray Lake.
Once known as Ray Lake Farm, Kaye and Edward Ray were the first to acquire land here in 1958 for breeding and raising purebred Black Angus beef cattle. Breeding cattle was a labor of love for the Ray family. They wanted to improve the breed for the public and held annual auctions with breeders flying in from across the nation to enjoy this social gathering and auction.
“After the passing of my father in 1965, the farm operations continued. In 1967, my mother purchased the purebred Angus cattle from Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. By 1968, we had 460 head of cattle,” said daughter Raine Ray. “And by 1976, the last of our herd was sold.”
Eventually the family sold off parts of the farm and leased the remaining acreage until 1999 when the Lake County Forest Preserves bought the property.
As a symbol of the land’s former use, the original Ray Lake Farm Black Angus bull statue remains atop a stone tower to greet visitors as they enter the preserve.
Ray Lake is an important cornerstone of a larger ecological complex of natural communities that combine to create a strategic habitat conservtion area for several threatened and endangered plants and animals. Within Ray Lake are three wetlands, woodlands with predominantly bur oak, hickory and cherry trees, and sprawling grasslands enjoyed by a variety of bird species. Two peninsulas separate two large wetlands, and a hilly area along the northeast side of the preserve offers a scenic view of all three wetlands.
The entrance and parking lot are located on Erhart Road between Gilmer and Fremont Center Road.
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