Located in northwestern Cook County, the Arthur L. Janura Forest Preserve offers visitors opportunities to explore beautifully restored prairies and wetlands and enjoy the cool shade of 300-year-old oak trees. Already home to the nine-acre, state-dedicated Shoe Factory Road Prairie Nature Preserve—a rare gravel hill prairie in the northwest corner of the preserve along Shoe Factory Road—this large swathe of natural land now boasts the Forest Preserves’ newest state designated parcel: the Poplar Creek Land and Water Reserve.
Prior to acquisition by the Forest Preserves, much of the site was used as agricultural land interspersed with intact remnant woodlands and prairies. The land has since been successfully transformed into functional native ecosystems through significant investments in restoration and the efforts of volunteer groups such as the Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards, whose efforts began in 1989. Today, the site primarily consists of reconstructed prairie, savanna, mesic woodland, and streamside fen natural communities.
Native plants, birds and animals thrive in these healthy and diverse settings. Poplar Creek Land and Water Reserve supports at least 27 species of plants and wildlife identified as being in the greatest need of conservation and provides habitat for several grassland bird species that are sensitive to habitat fragmentation, underpinning its ecological importance to the region. It also serves as an important buffer and extension of the adjacent Shoe Factory Road Nature Preserve.
Dedication of a site as an Illinois Land and Water Reserve provides a high level of protection for land in Illinois and is granted only to natural areas of regional ecological or cultural significance. The Forest Preserves manages 27 dedicated Nature Preserves and six Land and Water Reserves; the addition of Poplar Creek Land and Water Reserve brings the Forest Preserves’ total Illinois Nature Preserve Commission-protected lands to approximately 10,968 acres.