Monday, December 13, 2010

Midwest Trails: Blackwell Forest Preserve (Winter)

Mt Hoy in background

This past weekend, my longer distance run took place in Warrenville, at the Blackwell Forest Preserve. This is another Du Page Forest Preserve, and once again consisted mostly of a wide, crushed gravel path that accommodates multiple uses. It being winter, the path lay under several inches of snow, though it had been groomed, so the snow underneath was packed firmly, with a softer crust on top, making for enjoyable trail running.


Natural History

Visitors hiking through Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville walk on land that the retreating Wisconsin Glacier shaped 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. In fact, the glacier’s meltwaters left behind much of the soil that covers DuPage County today. After the glacier’s retreat, savannas with widely spaced oak trees formed on the higher ground while the lower-lying ground became home to marsh and prairie plants.

Typical trail view

Preserve History

In the 1830s, Erastus Gary, one of Winfield Township’s first settlers and a founder of Gary, Ind., made his home on the land that is now Blackwell Forest Preserve. There, he operated a grist mill — Gary’s Mill — east of the West Branch of the DuPage River. 130 years later, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County purchased the land and named the new preserve for Roy C. Blackwell, a former District president.


The Forest Preserve District concluded that it could convert a quarry on the south side of the preserve into a multiuse area that would both retain stormwater and offer visitors a variety of recreational activities. The quarry became Silver Lake. Authorities later chose Blackwell to be the site of a new county landfill. The resulting Mount Hoy operated from 1965 to 1973 and provided valuable knowledge in managing solid waste. Today, Mount Hoy serves as a scenic overlook and popular birding site as well as a winter tubing hill.

McKee Marsh from viewing stand

In 1977, Blackwell made paleontological history when District employees working at McKee Marsh uncovered the 13,000-year-old skeleton of a woolly mammoth, one of the oldest finds of its kind in northeastern Illinois.


The main path is the Regional Trail, which also connects to other forest preserves and the Illinois Prairie Path, so runs of almost infinite duration are possible. By adding two side loops (the Bobolink Trail and Catbird Trail) as well as 3 out and back sections (Regional Trail to Gary's Mill, Nighthawk Trail, and another unnamed and not on the preserve map), plus crossing over and running up Mount Hoy, I was able to create a loop of almost 11.5 miles, little of it on roads.

Tubing on Mount Hoy

Tubing fans can take a thrilling ride down Mount Hoy when 3 or more inches of snow covers the hill. District inner tubes are the only devices that may be used on Mount Hoy and can only be rented on weekends and school holidays December through February at the base of the hill. Call the Outdoor Report at (630) 871-6422 for hours of operation and snow conditions.

Service road up and views from Mt Hoy

Mt Hoy is an 856 foot hill, which is ideal for both tubing in winter and longer hill intervals year-round. I will definitely return for that very reason. Hoping to find a day when my wife or I can return with our 3 older children to try out the tubing fun as well.

23 comments:

  1. Beautiful place to run Kovas!

    How does one tube in the winter? Winter and tubing do not seem like words that should be used together?

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  2. Awesome looking place ... the death of a woolly mammoth is so sad! I'm hopeful you took a moment to remember all the fallen mammoths - before you tore the place up!

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  3. Great pictures and the trails look inviting, well except for the snow. I'm so done with snow....happy to be here in the cold of Texas with no snow.

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  4. That place does look great. I think I might need a new monitor though, you have that picture saying "Mt Hoy in the background" and for the life of me I can't see anything.

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  5. Nice! I like places like that because they look different with each season, yet always beautiful.

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  6. Another awesome run in another awesome place. Beautiful photos with the snow! You run in some amazing places.

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  7. That looks like a great place to run!

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  8. I visited that place when I was a kid. I never have ran there - but a great place to run I bet. Thanks for sharing the pics.

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  9. Awesome pictures!! What a cool place to run.

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  10. Trail Guru keeping it real. Wicked cold I heard.Nice miles in some questionable conditions. Beautiful as always.

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  11. I would almost welcome a snowy run to run there!

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  12. you've got to lover winter training with places like that.

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  13. I'm thinking they use the term "mt" in naming "mt hoy" pretty loosely. :)

    I'm always jealous of your parks that you get to run in!

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  14. 6 hours I was without access to the world today. SIX! S.I.X.

    Looks like the perfect place to use the Trekstra's - and I bet the kiddos will have a blast on that tubing hill!

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  15. would love to have a place like that near to go for long runs...lucky you

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  16. Great pictures but, man, I envision some really wet feet running through the area. In summer, it would be beautiful.

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  17. What an awesome place! I loved the pics!

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  18. No way - wholly mammath? That is so cool!

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  19. that's indeed a distance...congrats!!!

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  20. Hi Kovas,
    That is one gorgeous running route! I see that you have plenty of the white stuff too:) Nice job on the run...I will have to plan a race in your neck of the woods sometime!

    Take care and have a great day!

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  21. Love Blackwell. Best place in Chicago for hill repeats!! :)

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