Creek State Natural Area is located in Lee County, 1 mile northwest
of the village of Franklin Grove and 8 miles east of Dixon just north
of IL Rt. 38. Beautiful Franklin Creek flows throughout the 882-acre park. Several large natural springs, hardwood forests, bedrock
outcroppings and a large variety of flora and fauna comprise a pristine
families in the 1830s found the Franklin Creek area to be an inviting
new home on the sometimes unfriendly prairie. Large, cool springs provided
ample amounts of pure drinking water and early refrigeration, hardwood
forests provided construction materials, and the creek provided fish for
food and water power to run saw and grist mills. The mill spring, the largest in the park, provided
water power for the largest grist mill in Lee County, constructed in 1847. Deep, pleasant valleys
protected by limestone and sandstone bluffs made ideal homesites shielded
from cold winter winds.
Many ponds and rock outcroppings along Franklin Creek carry
names given them by pioneer families.
park contains a 198-acre nature preserve which is an outstanding and diverse
natural area in a uniquely beautiful setting. High, rocky bluffs shelter
a perennial creek and create an environment rich in flora and
fauna. The preserve represents the initial acquisition by the state
of Illinois and has been the cornerstone upon
which Franklin Creek State Natural Area was built. With its dedication
as a nature preserve in 1970, it became Illinois' 24th nature preserve.
geology of Franklin Creek is of considerable interest as the valley is
deep enough to expose three distinct rock strata. New Richmond sandstone,
a soft rock of Lower Ordovician age, is exposed at the bottom of the gorge.
This is the oldest rock formation anywhere in the state, dating back more than
500 million years. Above the New Richmond sandstone lies the Shakopee
formation, a sandy dolomite also of Lower Ordovician
age. This strata is capped with St. Peter sandstone of Middle
Ordovician age and approximately 460 million years old. Away from the outcrops
along the creek, which have been exposed by erosion, the bedrock is covered
with a deep till from the Wisconsin glaciation. Finally, this is mantled
with a layer of loess from which the upland soil developed.
occurrence of vegetation is influenced by soil characteristics, topography
and moisture. Low lying areas along the creek bed support a bottomland
forest dominated by silver maple and hackberry. Slippery elm and Kentucky
coffeetree also occur here. Ravines support mesic (intermediate between
wet and dry) upland forest characterized by sugar maple and basswood and
paw paw an understory shrub of more southernly distribution. On drier sites, a dry-mesic forest of white oak, red oak, black
oak, shagbark hickory and hop hornbeam occurs.
small glacial drift hill prairie remnant is present in the preserve. Indian
grass and tall dropseed are characteristic plants of this habitat. Other
prairie species present include false toadflax, flowering spurge and
quality, undisturbed cliff communities exist on the bedrock outcrops.
Canada yew, an evergreen shrub of more northern woods, is common.
Bladdernut, bishops-cap and shooting star also are found here,
as well as several species of ferns.
forested areas provide habitat for many species of nongame wildlife. Woodpeckers,
flycatchers, thrushes, vireos and warblers breed
on the site. The area provides critical stop-over habitat for many more
species during migration. Great blue and green herons have been
observed here. Mammals utilizing the area include raccoons chipmunks,
gray and fox squirrels, beaver, and deer. Shrews, white-footed mice, weasels
and foxes also may be seen. Nineteen species of fish have been recorded
from Franklin Creek.
Franklin Creek has been a favorite local recreation site for decades. In
1970, Mrs. Winifred Knox donated 100 acres of land her pioneer ancestors had settled for wildlife preservation. Through the 1970s, the Natural Land
Institute purchased additional properties as they became available. Franklin
Grove area citizens, wanting to see the area protected,
organized the Franklin Creek Preservation Area Committee in 1981.
The Committee has gained the reputation of
being the first volunteer organization in the state to improve
state-owned land for park purposes through volunteer efforts. The committee
secured donations of money and labor, along with assistance from the Franklin
Grove Future Farmers of America, to construct roads, shelters, picnic
tables and restrooms, and to run underground electric lines, drill wells and clear
hiking trails. Dedication services were held Aug 28, 1982 to officially
open the park. In April of 1986, the state hired a
site superintendent to manage the new park.
Norwegian Hill and Mill Springs Day Use Areas have two and three shelters,
respectively. Each shelter is complete with electricity, cooking grills,
picnic tables, restrooms and drinking water. The facilities at Sundays
Shelter are accessible. A walk-in picnic area with
parking by Sundays Bridge offers four secluded picnic areas with
picnic tables and grills. The Sundays, Bartlett, Hausen-Knox and
Banker Shelters may be reserved by visiting www.reserveamerica.com
Mill: Since 1987 the Franklin Creek Preservation Area Committee has
been continuing their volunteer involvement by working to reconstruct
the Franklin Creek Grist Mill. The original early-American corn meal and
wheat flour producing mill, constructed in 1847, was the "largest
and most complete" grist mill in Lee County. The reconstructed mill became operational in 1999, and is open
to the public Saturday and Sunday from noon - 4 p.m. from April 1 to
November 1. For more information call the Grist Mill at (815)456-2718 or the park office. The Franklin Creek Preservation Area
Committee now has a long-term lease to operate and maintain the facility.
Along with milling demonstrations, the building serves as a visitors center
for the natural area. All four levels of the Grist Mill are
Four and one-half miles of hiking trails are marked and maintained at
the park. All trail markers are numbered and clearly shown on the park
map. The Mill Springs Trail is a unique,
concrete-surfaced trail suitable for people of all mobility levels. The
trail leads to the beautiful Mill Spring and possesses an easy rating.
Pioneer Pass is highly recommended to see the parks unique, natural
The equestrian area contains 12 miles of trails developed and maintained by the Rock River Trail
and Horsemans Association. Equestrian facilities include a picnic shelter,
restrooms, drinking water and an outdoor show area.
Four of the 6 miles of equestrian trails serve as snowmobile trails
after the hunting season closes and a 4-inch snow base exists.
Skiing: Two of the 6 miles of equestrian trails serve as ski trails
winding through 65 acres of rolling wooded landscape. Trails possess a
medium difficulty rating and are open after the hunting season closes.
Fishing is allowed in Franklin Creek on state-owned property.
Use your park map to be sure you are on park property. Franklin Creek
supports a population of smallmouth bass, channel catfish, carp, redhorse
and rock bass when stocked
A white-tailed deer reduction program is under way at Franklin Creek. Hunting acreage has expanded to include 635 acres for archery hunting and 580 acres for firearm hunting. Hunters are encouraged to contact the site office for current information. Wild turkey hunting is allowed north of Franklin Creek in the equestrian area in season. Hunter Fact Sheet
This park is for all to enjoy, so help keep it clean. Put all litter in
the nearest trash container. No plants or parts of any tree may be removed
or damaged. If you have a question or need help, contact the site superintendent.
Creek State Natural Area is located between Rochelle and Dixon, just north
of IL RTE 38. On IL RTE 38 on the west side of the small town of Franklin
Grove, turn north on Daysville Road and go one block to Old Mill Road.
Turn left (west) on Old Mill Road and proceed one mile to the State Natural
northerly parts, Franklin Creek State Natural Area is located 10 miles
south of Oregon. On IL RTE 64 in Oregon, ½ mile east of the bridge
over Rock River is the IL RTE 64/Daysville Road intersection (at the Traffic
Light). At this intersection go south on Daysville Road 10 miles to the
small town of Franklin Grove. At the northern edge of town, turn right
(west) on to Old Mill Road and go one mile to the State Natural Area.
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community
Affairs' Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.