Winding through the center of LaBagh Woods, the North Branch of the Chicago River is the dominant feature of this Chicago forest preserve. Bridges and former railroad tracks (now converted to a gravel trail) mix with the quiet of the trees and wildflower-filled openings here. So close to so many city dwellers, LaBagh is a great destination for families.
Enjoying LaBagh Woods
LaBagh Woods is an all-encompassing type of preserve. Visitors range from dog-walkers and runners to large picnic groups and families with young kids. North of Foster Avenue, this large area offers open space for games, picnic tables and shelters, gravel trails for walking, hiking and biking and quiet natural areas to reflect and watch birds. The wooded riverbanks, bluffs and hills along the river add depth to the terrain.
Along the river, kids may be able to see duck families up close. Birders frequent the preserve, especially during the active May migration.
Picnickers and large groups can access LaBagh groves from parking lots off Cicero Avenue, just north of Foster. Open, mowed fields add activity space to the groves, each of which can accommodate groups between 200 and 350 people with permits. Indoor bathrooms are open from April through November.
For a longer hike, visitors can park at the Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove off Foster Avenue and walk north into the woods. Here, old railroad tracks have been converted to a gravel trail, which crosses the river before connecting to the Sauganash (or Skokie Line) Trail north of Bryn Mawr. The Sauganash Trail is paved and ideal for cyclists, joggers and in-line skaters.
Nature at LaBagh Woods
LaBagh Woods offers significant tree cover, with a mix of large oaks, maples and cottonwoods. Occasional sunny savannas and sedge meadows dot the wooded landscape, particularly toward the northeast of the site, an area known as Sauganash Prairie Grove. Some of these species-rich spots benefit from restoration by District volunteers, as do low-lying wetlands. Wild geranium, Indian plantain, turtlehead, blue flag iris, marsh blazing star and hop sedge all grow at LaBagh.
At the center of the site near the river, an oxbow slough fills the low bottomlands. During floods, the area takes on a primeval feel, like a southern swamp.
Birders explore the area during spring migration to view birds such as spring warblers, tanagers and sparrows. Cooper’s and red-tailed hawks have nested in these woods. Mink and other water-loving mammals patrol the river banks.