Echinacea and purple mallow poppy -- a visual treat of summer at the Aroma Land and Water Preserve.

A mysterious forest path unknowingly leads you to a beautiful river that is teaming with bright, colorful wildflowers.

It is very quiet this warm summer day except for an orchestra of birds singing as the warm sunlight sneaks through the tall majestic trees and a beaver or blue heron looking your way. Yes! This is one of your Forest Preserves of the Kankakee River Valley — Shannon Bayou on the historic Kankakee River at Aroma Park.

Just months ago a sleek, white tailed deer flew across a magnificent grove of pines in another massive forest through the serenity of winter's silence in the snow. But now, monarch butterflies are hunting in the tallgrass prairie and, as evening falls, fireflies are lighting up the native wetlands.This is Aroma Land and Water Preserve, another of the eight Kankakee River Valley Preserves calling for you to unplug, unwind and renew your soul.

Come walk, bike, run, or cross country ski when it snows, or just sit under a tree and read.

The forest preserve district originally was approved in 1987 and now includes Kankakee and Aroma townships.

The district's acreage is small in comparison to the preserves of Will or Cook county, but the board has acquired, developed and maintained eight properties.

Through the years, the district has received open space land acquisition and development grants from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for land purchases and improvements.

In June, it received a $6,210 Openlands/ComEd grant to purchase native plants and do restoration at its preserves. In April, the Kankakee Community Foundation granted the district $2,200, which also was used for native plants and planting equipment used by Indian Oaks Academy students who assisted in the plantings.

The district also offers regular nature programs, led by Jean Hurrle, who also produces a free bi-monthly newsletter "Woods of Wisdom" and maintains the website

To receive the newsletter or for more information, phone 815-935-5630 or visit the website.

The district's properties:

1. Shannon Bayou Environmental and Education Center — 46 acres at 3301 Waldron Road, Aroma Park: Walking trail, tall grass prairie, river frontage, butterfly garden, woodlands, picnic shelter and tables. It also is the home of the district's administrative center.

2. Aroma Land and Water Preserve — 188 acres at 1578 Hieland Road, 1.4 miles south oft Illinois Route 1: Woodlands, wildflowers, walking trail, prairie, and a wetland ecosystem with river frontage and a playground.

3. Gar Creek Trail and Prairie Restoration — 86 acres at 501 River Road, Kankakee: Walking trail, tall grass prairie, river frontage, woodlands, bike trail.

4. Waldron Arboretum — 90 acres at 2755 Waldron Road, Aroma Park: Walking trail, woodlands.

5. Strasma Grove — two acres on Duane Boulevard, Kankakee: Neighborhood woodlands, walking trail.

6. Limestone Restoration Site — 30 acres at County Road 3750 West, Kankakee: Reforestation woodlands and grasses.

7. Zeedyk Meadows — four acres, Warren Street, off Hieland Road: Neighborhood woodland and grasses.

8. Snake Creek Preserve — two acres, Darlene Drive, off Hieland Road, half a mile south of Illinois Route 17: Neighborhood woodland and grasses.

Upcoming programs

Forest district program director Jean Hurrle will lead a summer nature program at Shannon Bayou Nature Center in Aroma Park at 9 a.m. Sunday. The nature center is at 1301 Waldron Road, Aroma Park.

Another program will be held there at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 25.

Hurrle will lead a walk through the Aroma Land and Water Preserve at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 31. Meet at the parking lot on Hieland Road, 1.4 miles south of Illinois Route 17.

For information, call Hurrle at 815-549-9072.

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