Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area

21950 North Riverwoods Road
Riverwoods,IL 60015
565 acres
6:30 am–sunset, daily.

Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area

Rare species, rare communities and exceptional natural areas combine to make this a very special preserve. More than half of the land is so ecologically valuable that it is dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve and benefits from special protection rules.

The preserve's rich natural and cultural history is recognized by its dual designation as an Illinois Nature Preserve (a selection saved for ecologically high-quality land) and as a Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places.

Due to its nature preserve designation, snowmobiles, dogs, horses and other pets are not allowed at this preserve. Bicycles are only allowed on roads, not on preserve trails.
Qualified service animals are allowed throughout the preserve and in all preserve facilities.


Over 6.5 miles of scenic trails wind through woods to the Des Plaines River. Trails here are open for hiking and, when snow is at least 4 inches deep, cross-country skiing.

Trails lead past historic buildings, next to the Des Plaines River and into a woodland dense enough to block out most human-made noises. Some visitors have even said that they feel transported far from Lake County as they follow the trails.

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 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.

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.

Ryerson Welcome Center

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 »

Ryerson Education Center

The Education Center is a net-zero energy building located within Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods, which means the building aims to produce as much energy as it consumes each year. Learn more »



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More About This Preserve

The Natural Scene

Ryerson supports some of Illinois' most pristine woodlands and several state threatened and endangered species. One of the best examples of a northern flatwoods forest, a rare northern Illinois landscape, and most of the floodplain forest left in northeastern Illinois can be found here. Learn more »

The preserve supports a variety of state threatened and endangered species. More than 150 bird species and nearly 600 species of flowering plants have been seen at Ryerson. Springtime brings special wildflower magic and autumn puts on a dazzling show of color in the maple forest.


Local history records document that Lake County’s first European settler, Captain Daniel Wright, owned property within the preserve. In the 1920s, a small number of families, including the Ryersons, Borlands and Fishers, purchased land here and built log cabins as weekend retreats. Learn more »

In 1942, the Ryersons built a summer estate home, which became the center of activity for their Brushwood Farm, known for its Arabian horses.

In 1966, the Ryerson family began to donate land to the Lake County Forest Preserves that eventually totaled 257 acres. The other families followed their lead and also donated and sold land enabling Ryerson to grow to its current size.


The entrance is on Riverwoods Road between Half Day Road (Route 22) and Deerfield Road, just west of the Interstate 94 Tollway.

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