Beaubien Woods’ 279 acres contains a mix of prairie, woodland and wetland habitats, with Flatfoot Lake as the centerpiece. Situated between the Bishop Ford Freeway and the Little Calumet River, the preserve is part of the Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan, an effort to protect 3,900 acres of natural habitat in the Calumet area. A boat launch at the preserve’s western end provides access to the Little Calumet River.
Enjoying Beaubien Woods
Families, anglers and nature enthusiasts will all find things to enjoy at Beaubien Woods. Upon entering the preserve, visitors are greeted by a bright red picnic shelter. From here, a dock extends into 19-acre Flatfoot Lake, an artificial lake created when the highway was built, where a family or group of friends can share laughs over an afternoon of fishing.
The shoreline is dotted with trees, shrubs and wetland plants. The lake is stocked with channel catfish and bluegill-sunfish hybrids and is used extensively by fisherman and for outdoor youth programs. The Field Museum and Calumet Stewardship Initiative organize volunteer days for invasive species removal, cleanup and other restoration activities, and each June the Forest Preserves and many partners host a free family nature festival at the site.
The Beaubien Woods Boat Launch is about a quarter mile from the Flatfoot Lake recreation area. The grassy fields that surround the access road are available for picnicking or recreational activities such as sports, kite flying or Frisbee. The road ends at a large parking lot that provides direct access to two boat docks, each with two ramps. While the area is primarily intended to provide boaters access to the Little Calumet River, the docks are also a good place to fish and enjoy the river. Motorboats, kayaks and canoes are permitted on the Little Calumet River. The launch is closed through winter.
Nature at Beaubien Woods
Before European settlement, Beaubien Woods was a wet prairie and open savanna community. Early agriculture and grazing altered the soil and removed native vegetation. Railroad and expressway construction further damaged soils and cleared areas for use in construction staging.
Recent ecological restoration efforts by the Forest Preserves, The Field Museum and community volunteers have been successful in restoring some of the site’s original natural communities. Community volunteers, students and interns have cleared the prairies of invasive brush, collected and scattered native plant seed and removed weeds and litter. The Forest Preserves has conducted several prescribed burns in the last few years, helping to keep the prairies open and encourage native vegetation. Due to the ongoing restoration, the site contains nearly nine acres of high-quality wet prairie and five acres of oak savanna, with plants such as big and little bluestem, cordgrass, prairie dock, Riddell’s goldenrod and starry false Solomon’s seal.
Common birds in the area include gray catbird, yellow warbler, Baltimore oriole and indigo bunting. Along the Little Calumet River near the boat launch there are large numbers of gulls, and ducks such as mergansers and goldeneyes frequent the area’s open water in winter. An occasional bald eagle will fish from the river. During a quiet winter day, visitors might spot coyote tracks along the shoreline of Flatfoot Lake.