If you're looking for a place to connect with history while resting in the shade, then look no more. The Millennium Oak, the Arboretum's living emblem, is the oldest tree on the property, more than 250 years old and predating Illinois' 1818 statehood. This towering white oak tree is also the landmark tree of Illinois, crowned in 2000 by the America the Beautiful Fund.
Look for host goldfinches, sparrows, common yellowthroats, barn swallows, tree swallows, and red-winged blackbirds around Sunfish Pond and the surrounding meadow. For some cool trees, check out the bald cypresses between Sunfish Pond and Lake Jopamaca. Can you find any of this tree’s famous “knees” poking out from the wet soils?
Can you guess where this lake got such a funny name? Lake Jopamaca is actually named for the four Morton brothers: Joy, Paul, Mark, and Carl. What would you get by combining the names in your family? Once you’ve come up with a funny name of your own, enjoy the abundant wildlife around this marshy oxbow lake. You might spot song sparrows, blue jays, warblers, herons, and even a warbling vireo or two during the summer.
Sit quietly beside Lake Marmo (named after Joy Morton's wife, Margaret Morton) for peaceful reflection or great bird watching. Raptors can be seen in the treetops over the water. Waterfowl also come here, and as you continue on Main Trail Loop 2 to Joy Path, keep your eye out for colorful birds like Scarlet Tanagers by the oak savanna.
Sterling Pond is a good place to spot waterfowl, including wood ducks. Relax on the wooden bridge while you look for wildlife and listen to the sounds of water passing over the dam. In the summer, keep your eyes peeled for Indigo Buntings in the small marsh just across the bridge.
Journey into the East Woods along the Woodland Trail (for .6 miles) or the Heritage Trail (for 1.3 miles) and you'll be amazed at what you find hidden in the oak and maple woodland habitat: a 14-ton granite boulder called Big Rock. What makes this sight even more fascinating is that it wasn't moved here by humans, but by the glaciers more than 14,000 years ago.
Enter the Children's Garden through a tree-lined walkway, with whimsical paths encouraging children to pay attention to the trees around them. Look down to see the names of each path engraved in the ground and try to spot matching trees along the path. Can you find Oak-A Avenue, Elm Expressway, and Ash Alley? Try a new route each time you enter the Garden.