Hello visitors and residents of Hancock County. This is my first blog post and I hope you’ve read my bio and had the chance to get to know me and my favorite things about Hancock County. I promise that I am not a weird pet person but I do plan on featuring my blog dog, Franklin, in many of these posts because a pet can be a great reason to explore your own backyard. In fact, he’s making his debut in this post about Oakwoods Nature Preserve.
Here is some background information provided by the Hancock Parks District (HPD):
Originally a privately-owned picnic, recreational, and fishing area, Oakwoods is a successful preservation effort. The HPD has blended the natural elements of the property, reaffirming its commitment to protect nature from man-made hazards while still allowing the public to enjoy and appreciate it. Oakwoods Nature Preserve welcomes visitors each day to this 227-acre outdoor complex that contains diverse habitat, an interconnected system of nature trails and two lakes – all anchored by the Richard S. “Doc” Phillips Discovery Center and located only two miles from downtown all waiting to be discovered.
The Park named for the huge oak trees found along Armand Run, is a place of discovery where wetlands, birds and wildlife, interpretive exhibits, woods and prairie are natural attractions in the Preserve and are featured in many environmental educational programs. Watching the sun set from the overlook deck over Shank Lake, fishing in Dold Lake or hiking the trails for seasonal changes and signs of wildlife are just a few reasons to keep coming back again and again.
When you pull onto the road that takes you back to the park, you will want to follow it all the way until you reach Shank Lake. The Preserve is actually split up into two sections with a beautiful private residence in the middle (I’m not jealous at all). Off of the parking lot is the Discovery Center which I have never been in but I know that HPD puts on some great programming there and it offers a restroom facility and a nice patio with a fireplace.
Of course, you can start your visit anywhere in the park but I always start on the path off of the parking lot and nearest Shank Lake. The trail splits into two and the left trail brings you to a beautiful patio area with a scenic view of the lake which Franklin HATES because any and all water is just a giant bath. So, while I like to stop there, I don’t go there often.
The main trail, however, will take you to some scenic woodland trails in addition to a trail the surrounds open farmlands. The combination can provide a trip with a variety of sites and a customizable distance – whether you are looking for lengthy exercise or maybe a short lunch break excursion.
One of my favorite stops is the meadow/prairie land in the middle of the woods that boasts a butterfly garden. There is also another overlook point off of Shank Lake with a creek that Franklin sometimes doesn’t hate and uses for a mid-walk refreshment.
If you’re not interested in a walk or taking your dog to stop a thousand times to pee on every tree in the park, then you might be interested in some of the fishing spots at Oakwoods. There are several spots on Shank Lake, but if you follow the path to the other second, smaller part of the park, you will find Dold Lake. I don’t often go back there for walking purposes because the trail dead ends behind the lake but it is a great spot for a picnic or some fishing.
This certainly won’t be the last park Franklin and I visit so stay tuned and I will update you about some of my other favorite things in Hancock County. See you on the trails!