Genuine Northwest

Discover these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.

Heron Creek Forest Preserve, Long Grove, Ill.

Heron Creek Forest Preserve

Route 22/Old McHenry Road, Long Grove

With nearly 240 acres, this preserve offers something for everyone. Bikers, hikers and cross-country skiers can take advantage of more than 2 miles of gravel trails through scenic woodlands and open meadows.

For picnickers, two shelters offer toilets and drinking fountains. Children will love the handicapped-accessible playground, which includes a sand pit, lookout stations into the woods and a separate area for toddlers.

Birders can spot up to 116 species here, including five state-endangered birds – black tern, black-crowned night heron, yellow-crowned night heron, osprey and Forster’s tern – plus three state-threatened bird species – brown creeper, pied-billed grebe and red-shouldered hawk.

The Indian Creek basin is here, offering habitat for notable native plant and wildlife, and a large population of waterfowl and herons. An Advanced Identification Wetland, the most-protected classification in Lake County, the preserve includes a sedge meadow.

The site is open from 6:30 a.m. to dusk, with plenty of public parking. ❚

Russell Military Museum, Russell, Ill.

Russell Military Museum

43363 Old Highway 41, Russell, (847) 395-7020,

Military buffs. Aviation fans. History lovers. Gearheads. Folks who like things that go boom. They’ll all find what they’re looking for here. Originally located in Kenosha, Wis., the museum opened at its present location in October 2007.

Owner Mark Sonday has been an avid collector of military hardware for more than 40 years, and these eight acres are packed with hundreds of vehicles, aircraft, watercraft and displays.

Among them: self-propelled Howitzers; an M-41 Walker Bulldog light tank; a Hawk missile carrier; a Chinese military motorcycle; a “Mutt” Jeep; an XR-311 Hummer prototype; a Schweizer Glider; an OV-1 Mohawk. Some of the helicopters are Choctaw, Cobra, Pelican and Huey. There’s a Vietnam river patrol boat; engines; anti-aircraft guns; missiles; Civil War cannonballs; Nazi swords; ordnance. And the collection continues to grow.

Special events are held throughout the year, including tank and helicopter rides, and even the spectacle of a tank crushing a car. Group rates are available, and the museum can be rented for birthday parties (tank ride included).
The museum’s Restoration Club was started to allow others to learn about preserving these historic vehicles. It meets on the last Saturday of the month and charges no fees or dues. Current projects are restoring a Sherman tank and an M715, in addition to reassembling a CH53 helicopter.

The museum is open Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. ❚

Shabbona Lake State Park, Shabbona, Ill.

Shabbona Lake State Park

4201 Shabbona Grove Road, Shabbona, (815) 824-2106,

Attention anglers: Shabbona Lake holds four state records for muskie and two for crappie. Lake records include an 18 ½-inch smallmouth bass, a 23-inch largemouth, a 22 ¾-lb. catfish, a 10-lb. walleye and a 14-lb. striper. Also stocked are bluegill, redear sunfish, rock bass, black and white crappie, black and brown bullhead, and perch.

The only man-made lake in Illinois designed for fishing, it covers 318 acres, with an average depth of 17 feet. It’s part of the 1,550-acre Shabbona Lake State Park, established in 1969. Lake preparation began in 1973, and some timber was left in the lake basin; as it was filled, 43 fish attractors and three large brushpiles were added, creating great gathering spots for all species of fish. A concrete spillway and a 3,000-foot earthen dam were completed in 1975. The lake opened for fishing in 1978.

Along its nearly 7 miles of wooded shoreline are five earthen fishing piers, a handicapped-accessible fishing pier and a double-lane launch ramp. On the western shore are three major picnic areas, with parking, restrooms, water and rental shelters. Sailboats up to 14 feet are allowed in certain areas, but swimming, skiing and jet skiing are prohibited.

A lakeside bait shop offers tackle and boat rental, as well as names of reliable fishing guides. A 10-horsepower limit on motors is strictly enforced, and the upper fishing area is a no-wake zone, with only rowing or trolling motors allowed. Fishing is good from both bank and boat.

Popular with campers, Shabbona has 150 sites available, some first-come, first-serve, others reserved. Nearly eight miles of trails wind through the park’s woodlands and prairies.

The area is named for Chief Shabbona, an Ottawa Indian whose main settlement was here. He married Pokanoka, the daughter of a Potawatomi chief. The lakeside Pokanoka Café is named for her. The park is open 6 a.m.-10 p.m., May through October, and 8 a.m.-sundown the rest of the year. ❚