Hiking is a popular recreational activity in Illinois and Carroll County is no exception! Opportunities to do just that can be found here. A leisurely trek through a twisting trail is an excellent way to experience, enjoy, and explore our precious nature areas.
Ayers Sand Prairie is a relatively large preserve containing dry sand prairie, sand dune and blowout communities typical of the Mississippi River Section of the Illinois and Mississippi River Sand Areas Natural Division. An inventory of the plants revealed 39 species of grasses and sedges, 16 species of woody plants and 96 forbs. The dominant herbaceous species are little bluestem, June grass and hairy gramma grass. Carolina anemone, sandcress, puccoon and sand primrose are typical sand prairie species. Black oak and cottonwood occur in the blowouts along with scattered clones of aromatic sumac. Resident mammals include deer, skunk, rabbit, mole, shrew and western harvest mice. Summer resident birds occurring here include upland sandpiper, loggerhead shrike, western meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow and dickcissel. A number of the characteristic reptiles found in sand prairies occur at Ayers Sand Prairie.
French bluff is characterized by steep hillsides, ridge tops, and terrace benches that are almost entirely covered by forest. Located east of Thomson, IL and just north of Argo Fay Road, this large contiguous forest tract is the southern most forest area in the Driftless Area. You can hike on unmarked trails through the site. An excellent birding site for interior forest birds as well as a good site to view spring wildflowers. Hiking, hunting, and birding.
The Great River Trail recreational path extends 62 miles from Savanna, through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, to the Quad Cities and provides fantastic biking, hiking, running, and walking opportunities.
55,000 acres: biking, birding, boat launches, canoeing, fishing, gift shop, hiking, hunting, picnicking, wildlife observation.
Lost Mound is a 7,000-acre tract on the Mississippi River located on an old munitions testing army base that closed in 2000. Unique features of this site include sand prairie remnants, forests, backwater wetlands, old military buildings, Indian burial mounds and the largest sand dune in Illinois. Biking, birding, hiking, Prickly Pear and Black Oak Dune scenic overlook area.
As its name suggests, this 2,400-acre park sits on lofty steep bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, with river access below. The park offers beautiful scenery, biking, birding, boat launches, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, scenic overlooks, and seasonal cross-country skiing.
Old Mill Park is 85 acres located on the northeast side of town featuring ball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball court, playground equipment, concession stand, two restroom buildings (one newly built accessible), and shelter houses. There is also a nature trail, walking trial, and plenty of green space for relaxing and picnicking. Open from April 15 through October 31. It is open to walk-in traffic after October 31 during the daylight hours. Persons who wish to walk or ‘play’ in the park may park at the front entrance near the Park Superintendent’s home.
Point Rock is a 25 acre city park that stretches along the banks of the Waukarusa River. One of the walking trails leads to the Oak Hill Cemetery, which has graves dating back to the Revolutionary War. Biking, fishing, frisbee golf course, hiking, parking, restrooms.
This site provides scenic views of both Spring Lake as well as the Mississippi River. Most notable is the 8.7 mile gravel path that runs along the edges of Spring Lake with two observation decks. Biking, birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking.
At 64 acres, Thomson Causeway is the largest Army Corps of Engineers recreation area on the Mississippi River. Located at a wide spot on the river, it offers unobstructed views of the more than three mile wide main channel and of Potters Marsh. On the Great River Trail. Biking, birding, boat launches, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking.