leafless tree and clear blue lake behind it
Blackwell Forest Preserve
 



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Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, Illinois is easily the most scenic forest preserve in Dupage County. While only 1,367 acres, the combination of rolling hills and the sparkling Silver Lake offers a treat for the eye. Blackwell is seen as two distinct halves: the hill and wooded Silver Lake portion and the McKee Marsh portion. Mckee Marsh is bordered by prairie and scattered woodlands. The preserve is open one hour after sunrise to one hour after sunset.

The landscape of Blackwell formed 12,000 to 15,00 years ago by retreating glaciers. The effect was an atypical Illinois topography of hills dipping down into marshes and prairies. Most of Illinois is pretty darn flat, and the hills of Blackwell make for a nice escape. One famous hill known as Mt Hoy used to be a trash dump, but now it is relegated to an exercise route and an tubing trail in the winter.


Blackwell also has a storied history of wildlife. The skeleton of a woolly mammoth was found during the restoration of McKee Marsh in 1977. The marsh is known for excellent bird watching. Keep your eye out for rare migratory traveling through the marsh. Mckee Marsh also offers an interpretive trail and a bird blind for observing wildlife. The fall is also an excellent time to watch migrating raptors from the top of Mt. Hoy.

blue water, pier and green rolling hill into forest
The main fishing pier at Blackwell.

Fishing at Blackwell is one of the most popular(if not the most) activities. You can always find some die hard fishermen working the shoreline of one of the scenic lakes. Silver Lake allows for battery powered motors. You can also rent a boat from the rental building adjacent to the main Silver Lake parking lot at the main entrance. Silver Lake is a comfortable 62 acres and 35 feet deep; it is not like other area lakes. Silver Lake is clean and clear. Those wanting to cast a line can find walleye, rainbow trout, northern pike, bluegill, catfish, crappie and largemouth bass swimming the waters. The rainbow trout are stocked in spring. They stay at the bottom when spring passes, opting for the cooler water. There are two floating piers on Silver Lake you can fish from. Fishing is not permitted on the boat docks. Also of interest is White Pine Pond. This nine acre pond with a depth of 15 feet holds catfish, largemouth bass, crappie and sunfish. Those wanting less fishing pressure may focus on the north side of this pond along the pine trees. Also, for less fishing pressure on Silver Lake, consider the steep western side. Blackwell is also open to ice fishing, but please use common sense in regards to ice thickness. The Forest District recommends a minimum of four inches.

boat dock and clear lake with island
A boat dock at Blackwell Forest Preserve.

With such a beautiful lake, you might want to bring a boat. Blackwell allows for non-gas powered watercraft up to twenty feet. You will need a Forest District private-boating permit which is available at Forest Preserve headquarters and the Blackwell boat rental building.

tan information center and bathrooms for campground
Campground information center at Blackwell.

Blackwell has a really nice campground. However,the nice campground is hampered by strange hours. The campground is only open Friday and Saturday from May to September. The campground is also open during Fourth of July week, and on extra days around other holidays. I'm not sure the reason for the peculiar hours, but there you have it. The facilities are good, ranging from restrooms with showers and even electric hookups for some sites. There are sixty sites total, each offering a picnic table and fire ring. Some of the campgrounds are close to running water, trash bins and latrines. With the wonky hours, you will definitely want to call for a permit at (630) 933-7248. Also, for a free campground tour for your iPod or computer, email webmaster at parkcamper.com with the subject line of "Blackwell campground tour".

Blackwell has twelve designated youth group campsites. These areas are only open to recognized, nonprofit organizations. Call (630) 933-7248 for permit information.

purple blossoming tree and yellow flowers
Blooming flora at Blackwell Forest Preserve.

Blackwell is home to seven miles of trails. I've hiked these numerous times and I can tell you they are some of the nice trails in the Illinois forest preserve system especially when you consider the high population densities of this area. 3.6 miles of these trails can be used for horseback riding, cross country skiers and cyclists.

Another cool feature of Blackwell is all the picnic tables surrounding Silver Lake. I often see families taking advantage of these. The scenery really is as good as it gets around Chicago. Many of the picnic tables have wide open views. The only negative is the wind. Because of the open nature, a pleasant picnic can turn into a game of chase the plates.

short pier and rolling hills with clear lake and blue sky
Two fishermen enjoy Blackwell at sunset.

Those who wish to bring their dogs to Blackwell can enjoy the off-leash dog area. This area is at the south end of Mack Road. The off-leash area opens at 9 a.m. on Mondays, but follows the regular Blackwell hours the rest of the week. Users need to have valid dog permits to use the off-leash area. You can call 630) 933-7248 for more information. All other areas in Blackwell require your dog be leashed.

If you live in the Warrenville, Naperville and Wheaton area you owe it to yourself to visit Blackwell Forest Preserve. It really is the crown jewel of the Dupage County Forest Preserve system. For campers driving through Illinois to other places, Blackwell's close proximity to the major east-west Interstate 88(just two miles or so) makes it a convenient place to sleep for the night. Just remember the campground is only open on weekends and Fourth of July week. Campers will want to exit I-88 at Winfield Road and then take a right on Winfield Road to Butterfield Road. You will spend about one minute on Butterfield road, then look for the Blackwell entrance sign on the right.





A trail of white pine on the western side of Blackwell Forest Preserve.

 

 

 



 

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