Midwest Trails: Herrick Lake + Danada Forest Preserves

Map shows how Herrick Lake + Danada are connected

My longest run in recent memory, about 11.5 miles, took place on the rolling crushed limestone trails of Herrick Lake and Danada Forest Preserves, sitting cheek by jowl in the western suburbs of Chicago. While not technical, these DuPage Forest Preserve trails connect to the Illinois Prairie Path, allowing for almost limitless running (as long as by limitless you mean less than 75 miles or so).

“Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton is home to an impressive variety of wildlife. Ecologists have recorded over 254 resident and migrant animal species among the preserve’s 470 different types of plants. In the mature upland woods, stately 150-year-old white, red and bur oaks provide habitat for animals like woodpeckers, squirrels and owls. White-tailed deer and coyotes roam through adjacent fields of European grasses, where dickcissels, savanna sparrows, bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks nest among the fescues. Slowly emerging within these fields are young planted forests of American elms with understories of smaller maples, oaks, lindens and hickories. Viburnums, dogwoods, roses and blackberries are common in this immature upland woods, which attracts black-crowned night herons, eastern wood peewees and American woodcocks. Along the forest preserve’s pothole marshes and streams, silver maple and buttonbush grow. Raccoons, woodchucks, northern orioles, wood thrushes, and various frogs and toads dwell in this area, which is seasonally covered with colorful swamp buttercup and wild iris. Herrick Marsh, which lies in the middle of the forest preserve, supports communities of cattails and reeds, a draw for eastern tiger salamanders, northern leopard frogs, pied-billed grebes, blue-winged teals, red-winged blackbirds, minks and muskrats.”

Herrick Lake

Herrick Lake is a very busy preserve on a Saturday morning, with walkers, high school cross country teams, and various sundry utilizers. It was a gorgeous morning and this area is really quite beautiful in winter as well.

Photo taken winter 2009-10
Herrick Lake Prairie Trail typical view

The trail is wide, smooth, and, while not specifically groomed for cross country skiing, would be admirably suited to the task. The Herrick Lake portion has a small wooded section, while the majority of the trail takes one under open skies and prairie views.

Typical Herrick Lake wooded trail section

There is obvious demarcation to let one know that you have entered Danada Forest Preserve; if you missed the sign, you really would have no idea. Danada has more of the same types of open, wide paths, though it is more developed, with the former home of Dan and Ada Rice situated there, along with stables, a training track, and other equestrian facilities, along with the Dupage County Forest Preserve headquarters.

Dan and Ada Rice’s former home, now a visitor center

“Danada has a rich history as the former home of Daniel and Ada Rice, and Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair. Today, the preserve is the home of Danada Equestrian Center, which is surrounded by 783 acres of rolling terrain that encompass wetlands, woodlands and prairies. A large wetland complex interspersed with fields is located in the area west of Naperville Road. Although the natural prairie is gone, a 35-acre region has been the target of intensive restoration efforts that have yielded a healthy, restored prairie. This ecosystem complex attracts a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, grassland birds, and a heron rookery.”

Starting gates for the grass training track

So I had brought along my IPod and earphones, intending to implement the Shut Up and Run Long Run Music Method (SUARLRMM). Here’s what Beth has to say about long runs and music:

“Do the half and half. I like to break up my long runs by taking the first half in peace and quiet. No music. Just my breathing and my feet on the pavement/trail. At the half way mark, I put in some music and it becomes a different run entirely.”

SUARLRMM? Fail. I forgot to start the music at my turnaround point and didn’t want to mess with the protocol, so I’ll try it again on another run. Seems like it might work.

Beautiful preserve with civilization close by

There is a small section of trail optimistically called the Nature Trail and,while approaching something more similar to single-track, is still smooth and groomed for the horseback riders. It does have more trees and thus, more shade, so on a hot day, it would offer welcome relief.

Danada Nature Trail is closer to single track but still groomed

For a shorter run, Herrick Lake can be done as a loop. To run as far as I did, adding Danada, however, it becomes an out and back, with some options coming and going, so it does not become overly tedious. While not my favorite of the forest preserve trails I’ve tried out, the twin forest preserves of Danada and Herrick Lake give a welcome opportunity to get in a slightly longer trail run near to home.


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