At more than 1,800 acres, Paul Douglas Forest Preserve fits right in with the other big forest preserves of northwest Cook County. Birders have been drawn to the area for decades, thanks to the large open grasslands and wetlands, complete with heron rookery, that provide ample breeding grounds for important birds. A favorite of cyclists, the preserve’s 7.2-mile paved trail encircles the preserve.
Enjoying Paul Douglas
Paul Douglas offers opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and active adults. Accessible at several points along its length and less busy than some bike trails at nearby preserves, Paul Douglas’ 7.2-mile paved trail is great for a quiet and gentle bike ride, in-line skate, hike or cross-country ski. The trail connects to Crabtree Forest Preserve, about a mile west, via the Algonquin Trail.
The forest preserve plays host to changing suites of birds year-round. A heron rookery in a large wetland close to the parking lot off of Central Road is a good place to view wetland birds, although visitors should keep a few hundred feet away during nesting season, from early spring through midsummer. There are no restrooms here, so plan accordingly.
On the eastern end of the preserve, the well-maintained Highland Woods Golf Course, complete with 18 holes and a driving range, is open to the public.
Nature at Paul Douglas
Since a large wetland was restored along Poplar Creek over a decade ago, pied-billed grebes, ruddy ducks and state-endangered yellow-headed blackbirds once again nest in the area. The heron rookery, which consists of nesting platforms along the marsh, attracts great blue heron pairs. Beavers are active here, too. Marsh marigolds and a variety of sedges populate Paul Douglas’ wetlands.
Eastern meadowlarks, Henslow’s and savannah sparrows and bobolinks nest in the larger grasslands. Red-eyed vireos and black-throated green warblers sing in the trees and sharp-eyed visitors can spot rough-legged hawks and northern harriers.