LAND AND WATER PRESERVES:
A person in the mood for a short, rugged hike through dense woodland can tackle a few miles of trail in two of the region's state preserves.
Sandy Ford Land and Water Preserve northwest of Streator offers a more challenging trail that takes hikers to the banks of the Vermilion River. Known for its wildflowers, the trail cuts through the heavy tree cover on the river's eastern edge. The entrance along North 18th Road, locally known as Leonore Road, can be easy to miss. Those traveling westbound from Route 23 will want to watch their odometers. The gravel parking area is 3.1 miles down the road; if you cross the Sandy Ford Bridge, you've gone too far. For eastbound travelers, the Sandy Ford Bridge is a sign you're nearing the entrance. Motorists will pass East 1391st Road on their right; immediately after will be the entrance to the land and water preserve on the left.
Miller-Anderson Woods State Nature Preserve, a few miles southwest of Echo Bluff Park, offers a narrow, ribbon-marked trail that leads to the top of a bluff. The payoff is a panorama of some of Starved Rock Country's richest wetlands, which attract a variety of waterfowl. A small gravel parking area is available on 670 North Avenue (also known as Kentville Road) 0.6 miles from Route 29. Across the road from the parking area is a trail entrance.
Both preserves have steep portions on their trails that may not be suited to younger hikers.
Watch the signs; Visitors should pay attention to signs posted at the state land and water preserves. Certain times of year, the sites are closed to hikers and open only to hunters. Due to spring turkey season, the locations are closed to hikers until May 15.