In the countryside of Secor 178 acres of history and entertainment | Food and cooking

Lenore Saturday

Craig Lotts, volunteer and outreach coordinator for the Parklands Foundation, talks about the trails at Kenyon Baler Woods Preserve and what makes them special.



SECOR – Whether you want to follow the trails of deer and wolves or follow in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, you can do both at Parklands Foundation’s Kenyon Baler Woods Preserve in rural SECOR.

Located on 1917 County Road 500 North, the 178-acre Woodford County Preserve is the westernmost preserve managed by ParkLands, a private non-profit organization working to manage and restore natural areas in the watersheds of the Mackinaw River.

“This reserve is unique for many reasons, one of which is that it serves as a meeting point between the Mackinaw River and the Panther Creek River, both of which are high-quality waterways,” said Craig Lotus, volunteer and outreach coordinator for the foundation.

The actual meeting of the two waterways is not part of the reserve, but each acts as its boundary. About a mile from Panther Creek and half a mile from the Mackinaw River on the reserve line.

The Foundation purchased the initial portion of the reserve from dairy farmer Frank Kenyon in 2002. The last purchase was purchased from Dr. Robert Baler, an ophthalmologist in Bloomington in 2019. Both purchases were made with the help of grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.






Craig Lutes, ParkLands Foundation volunteer and outreach coordinator, points out some features of the Kenyon Baler Woods Preserve near a pond during a New Year’s Eve picnic. Watch a video of this story at pantagraph.com موقع.


Lenore Sobota, for the paragraph


The land was primarily used to graze cattle and harvest hay. ParkLands restores the prairie and plants trees in the river bed and along the trails of the middle ring.

Lotus described it as a very scenic place with “lots of quality hiking” as well as good quality habitat on land and water.

The terrain is gently rolling with some hills that can raise your heart rate. There are over four miles of trails. Lotus said more are being added each year. Multiple loops can be made.

The trail map can be found at www.parklandsfoundation.org by clicking on the “Our Preserves” tab and then selecting Kenyon-Baller Woods.






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Trees in Panther Creek, which reflect from the northeast corner to the southwest corner of the Kenyon Baler Woods Preserve in the Secor Reef. The creek flows into the Mackinaw River, which also forms a boundary for the ParkLands Foundation Preserve.


Lenore Sobota, for the paragraph


Lutes led a hike into the reserve with about 30 people on New Year’s Eve. Originally planned as a “day one” hike to welcome 2022, the picnic has been moved to the last day of 2021 before expected storms.

The narrow, hilly roads you need to travel to get to the reserve are not something you want to tackle in icy conditions.

The hikers ranged from enthusiastic young hikers running hills and walking through fallen trees as if they were balance beams to older hikers with trekking poles.






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New Year’s Eve hikers ascend a trail into the upper prairie at Kenyon Baler Woods Preserve in the Sikor Country.


Lenore Sobota, for the paragraph


“Deception in this area is different from what you’ll see in many areas of central Illinois,” Lotus said. “In the winter,…this is the time to come because, with the fall foliage, you can really take advantage of the landscape and the scenery of bluffs.”

Hikers on New Year’s Eve were treated to an unusually relaxed day at the end of December and sightings included a small flock of trumpeter swans and a large flock of large white-fronted geese soaring overhead.

A small memorial as you drive into the preserve commemorates the once thriving town of Bowling Green that was there during Abraham Lincoln’s riding days as a lawyer.

Jay Fracker’s book, “Looking for Lincoln in Illinois,” describes Lincoln’s travels through the region. Lincoln is believed to have debated Methodist minister Peter Cartwright at Bowling Green in 1846 when they were vying against each other in Congress.

Whether you are interested in history, nature, or playing sports, Kenyon Baler Woods is a beautiful place to visit.

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