Illinois Nature Preserves

early evening in the woods at Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve. Photo by Chad Reno.
Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve, dedicated in 1965, is the fourth oldest in the Illinois Nature Preserve System. Photo by Chad Reno.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County has 25 Illinois Nature Preserves, totaling 7,248 acres, the most of any local agency in the state.

On this page:


Sagawau Canyon
Sagawau Canyon Nature Preserve. Photo by Kimberly Greyson-Bost.

What is an Illinois Nature Preserve?

Illinois Nature Preserves protect rare plants, animals and other unique natural features—including now uncommon ecosystems like tall grass prairies, oak savannas, sandstone bluffs, wetlands and bogs.

  • Illinois Nature Preserves are public and private lands voluntarily dedicated into the internationally acclaimed Illinois Nature Preserves System.
  • These high-quality natural areas and habitats of endangered and threatened species are permanently protected by state law.
  • The Forest Preserves of Cook County has 25 Illinois Nature Preserves, totaling 7,248 acres, the most of any local agency in the state.

Why Are They Special?

Without the protection provided by the Illinois Nature Preserves System and the Forest Preserves of Cook County, many of Illinois’ plants, animals and ecosystems would be lost forever.

  • Over 900 species of endangered and threatened plants and animals are protected in Illinois Nature Preserves across the state.
  • Beyond providing vital habitat for native plants and animals, they are also valued for their contributions to scientific research, education and public health and recreation.
  • These are the last remnants of landscapes that evolved after the last ice age and covered Illinois until the U.S. Federal Government and settlers pushed Native Americans out of the area, leading to expansion of urban, industrial and agricultural land use. Today, 0.1% of Illinois’ land reflects these historical natural conditions.

Protecting as many remaining natural areas as possible is critical in the face of constant pressure from development, invasive species and climate change.


a wetland at Bluff Spring Fen
Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve. Photo by Lisa Musgrave.

Nature Preserve List

The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission designates the highest quality natural areas in the state as Illinois Nature Preserves. This status includes increased levels of legal protection and management.






Busse Forest Nature Preserve
(near Elk Grove Village)








McMahon Woods and Fen Nature Preserve
(part of Dan McMahon Woods)
(near Willow Springs)




Sagawau Canyon Nature Preserve
(part of Sagawau Environmental Learning Center)
(near Lemont)
630-257-2045



Shoe Factory Road Prairie Nature Preserve
(part of Arthur L. Janura Preserve)
(near Schaumburg)





Wolf Road Prairie Nature Preserve
31st St, west of Wolf Rd
(near Westchester)

blazing star flowers in bloom at Bartel Grassland. Photo by Erin Soto.
Bartel Grassland Land & Water Reserve. Photo by Erin Soto.

Land & Water Reserve List

The Forest Preserves of Cook County has four Land and Water Reserves. This state designation provides special protections, though at a lower level than a Nature Preserve.


Bartel Grassland Land and Water Reserve
Flossmoor Rd, west of Central Ave
(near Tinley Park)



Orland Grassland Land and Water Reserve
W 167th St, west of S La Grange Rd
(near Orland Park)

Illinois Nature Preserves Commission

The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) is part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The mission of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (INPC) is to assist private and public landowners in protecting high quality natural areas and habitats of endangered and threatened species; in perpetuity, through voluntary dedication or registration of such lands into the Illinois Nature Preserves System. The Commission promotes the preservation of these significant lands and provides leadership in their stewardship, management and protection.