Nygren Wetland Preserve celebrates 20 years as a wildlife refuge in 2020

‘Wander at the Wetland’ will kick off year-long events

ROCKTON - Nygren Wetland, a 721-acre preserve in Rockton, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of this restored farmland throughout 2020.

The public is invited to help NLI kick off a year of events with, “Wander at the Wetland: Full Moon Snowshoe & Hike” which will take place on Thursday, Feb. 6 from 4:30–8 p.m. Participants may come anytime between 4:30 and 8 p.m. This free outdoor winter event is for all ages and will be held with or without snow. Visitors will be able to experience the winter landscape of the prairie and wetland by taking a hike, snowshoeing or skiing the trail lit by hundreds of luminaries, sponsored by NorthPointe Health & Wellness Campus. Either head out on the trail on your own or follow a tour guide who will provide information about Natural Land Institute and Nygren Wetland. While there, listen to the stillness or for the call of owls in the distance, watch the sunset in the horizon over the wetland, look for the nearly full moon (if it is not hidden by clouds) and enjoy exploring this natural area with family and friends.

There will be places to warm up including the winter themed greenhouse with hot cocoa and snacks and two bonfires. Snowshoes will be available to rent for a $10 donation to NLI and are sponsored by Rocktown Adventures. Visitors may also bring their own snowshoes or skis.

Please register for this free event by Feb. 5 online at: https://www.naturalland.org/event/wander-at-the-wetland-full-moon-snowshoe-hike-2/?instance_id=2659 or call (815) 964-6666 for more information and to register.


The Carl & Myrna Nygren Wetland Preserve is owned by Natural Land Institute (NLI), a 501(c)3 non-profit conservation organization based in Rockford, which purchased the land in 2000 with the help of a gift from the estate of Carl Nygren, among other donors and grantors.

The preserve has a variety of habitats including upland sand and lowland prairies, wetlands, bottomland forest, oxbow lakes and ponds in the preserve. Raccoon Creek runs through the preserve and the Rock and Pecatonica Rivers come to a confluence to form the southeast corner of the preserve. Much of the land was farmed at one time and the creek was straightened out by one of the previous landowners. NLI staff and hundreds of volunteers began work to restore the prairies and wetlands to native wildflowers and grasses in 2000. In 2004, they embarked on one of the most difficult restoration initiatives by returning Raccoon Creek to a meandering stream, which took three years.

The Dianne Nora Nature Trail is a 2.5-mile trail around the wetland available for birding, hiking, jogging and cross-country skiing that offers many opportunities to see wildlife and experience the beauty and solitude of the preserve. It is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free.

Access to the trail, parking lot and Jack Cook Pavilion (wildlife overlook) is at 3714 W. Rockton Road. Watch for closed signs during migration season. The trail was established in memory of Dianne Nora by a generous gift from her family. Rockton Township owns and manages the land at the trailhead where the parking lot and overlook are located. This trail is in the Prairie State Conservation Coalition’s hike app trail system. The Prairie State Hike app is available for apple and android platforms for a small fee and includes information about the preserve and Natural Land Institute.

Natural Land Institute (NLI), an accredited land trust. The Nygren Wetland Preserve is located at 3190 W. Rockton Road, Rockton.