Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is one of the most ecologically impressive parcels of open space in DuPage County and is consistently ranked among the best hiking experiences near Chicago. It is known for its Rocky Glen waterfall, Sawmill Creek bluff overlook and extensive trails. View map.
Long before Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet paddled their way through the Des Plaines River Valley in the mid-1600s, American Indians were living along the surrounding limestone bluffs, including today’s Signal Hill, which served as a communications vantage point. It is also one of Illinois & Michigan (I&M) Canal National Heritage areas.
By the late 1800s, though, the Ward Brothers’ mill was turning out lumber on Sawmill Creek, and Edwin Walker’s three quarries were yielding tons of quality limestone for projects like the landmark Chicago Avenue Water Tower and Pumping Station. In 1907, the Lincoln Park Commission, a predecessor of the Chicago Park District, had its own 107 acres with a small nursery and a considerable supply of topsoil, which it used to fill in the shoreline along Lake Michigan to create the Lincoln Park area.
In 1925, the Forest Preserve District purchased its first 75 acres at Waterfall Glen, the Signal Hill and Rocky Glen areas. Rocky Glen soon became the site of the preserve’s well-known tiered falls, which the Civilian Conservation Corps built in the 1930s. In 1973, the preserve got its single largest addition — more than 2,200 acres of surplus land from the U.S. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. That same year, the District named the site Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, not after the familiar falls but in honor of Seymour “Bud” Waterfall, an early president of the District’s Board of Commissioners.
Waterfall Glen’s prairies, savannas and oak maple woodlands contain 740 native plants species, 75 percent of all the plants known to grow naturally in DuPage County. Because of this rich variety, more than 300 species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles and another 300 of invertebrates use the preserve year-round or during migrations. And, Waterfall Glen is part of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, a new kind of national park, welcoming travelers to the parks, trails, canal towns and landmarks along this historic passageway.
The Main Entrance is on Northgate Road. From I-55, take Cass Avenue 0.5 mile south to Northgate road. Turn right on Northgate and go 400 feet to the lot. To reach the Rocky Glen waterfall parking lot, take Cass Avenue 1.5 miles south of Northgate Road to Bluff Road. Take Bluff Road 0.3 mile east to the lot. A third parking lot is on the east side of Lemont Road at 101st Street, 1 mile south of I-55.