Long before there were people at the Arboretum, there were trees. If our Millennium Oak could talk, oh, what tales it could tell since it's about 250 years old!
The Millennium Oak pre-dates Illinois' 1818 statehood. Located in the oldest part of the Arboretum, close to where Joy Morton originally built his home in 1909, the tree stands in an area where community founders recall having seen Potawatomi Native American temporary encampments.
The towering oak tree, which is found on the West Side near P-26, is Illinois' official Millennium Landmark Tree. America the Beautiful Fund selected the tree as the state's Millennium Landmark Tree in part of the White House Millennium Council's decision to raise awareness of the importance of trees' witness to our nation's growth. In 2000, America the Beautiful selected one landmark tree in each state to be protected and used to promote the respect and care for trees.
Take Time to Reflect by These Still Waters
Have you ever seen a majestic tree reflected in a clear pond? Have you listened carefully to the vibrato of frogs coming from silent lakes and marshes? Water is an integral part of the Arboretum—not only because it nourishes the trees and grassy areas around it, but because it nourishes people, too.
Sit quietly beside Lake Marmo (named after Joy Morton's wife, Margaret Morton), Meadow Lake, or Sterling Pond. Reflect on the natural beauty you see there. The lakes, ponds, marshes, and rivers throughout the Arboretum attract birds, animals, wildflowers, and nature lovers. Why not explore all of the water on these grounds and discover your favorite place for introspection and reflection.
Big Rock: The Power of Glaciers
On the East Side, Big Rock is a 25-minute hike from Big Rock Visitor Station if you take the shorter Woodland Trail (.6 miles), and a 40-minute hike if you take the longer Heritage Trail (1.3 miles). Both trails lead you through oak and maple woodland habitat. Interpretive panels along the short paved loop at the Visitor Station help you explore the geology and native plants you will discover as you walk the longer Heritage Trail.
Big Rock itself is a huge granite boulder left by glaciers 14,000 years ago. Interpretive panels at Big Rock tell the story of an abandoned saw mill road used by pioneer settlers to harvest the important oak trees growing there.
The Arboretum's 500 acres of natural wooded areas are located on the East Side. These wooded areas can be classified by their amount of tree canopy cover. When 10–50% of an area has tree cover, it is known as a savanna; 50–80% a woodland; and 80–100% a forest. Our East Woods contains forest and woodland habitats, all of which are in the process of being restored through staff and volunteers' woodland conservation efforts.
Several connecting trails loop through and around the woodland habitats, making it an ideal destination to explore by foot all year-round. In the fall, witness the ever-changing colors of the canopy. In spring, look for woodland wildflowers blooming on the forest floor. Observe birds, animals, fungi, and insects all year-round in their native habitat.
Schulenberg Prairie: Captivating from April to December
Schulenberg Prairie is one of the oldest planted prairies in the Midwest. It's lush with flowering plants from April through October, resplendent with asters and grasses in September and October, and alive with migrating birds in November and December. Schulenberg Prairie is home to at least 500 different plant species.
Be sure to stop at the Prairie Visitor Station (P-25). There you will find interpretive exhibits that will explain what to look for while you trek through this restored natural area.
Mazes have stimulated imagination, myth, and legend throughout history. Our one-acre Maze Garden offers an adventure for young and old alike.Try to find your way through this living puzzle. It isn’t easy—the maze changes from season to season.
If you’d rather watch from above, climb to a 12-foot high lookout platform built around a stunning, 60-foot tall Sycamore tree. Enjoy a bird's-eye-view of family and friends as they navigate the maze.