A Forest Preserve with a lot more than forest…..

North of I-74 near the town of Mahomet sits Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve. I had set off for this park early on a Saturday morning to feed my need of covered bridge images (those who’ve read some of my other posts know I have an affinity for them). I had heard there was a covered bridge there that had been constructed in 1965, patterned off of the Pepperel Bridge in Boston, and that sounded like something I’d certainly have to shoot.
Situated just 15 minutes or so west of Champaign, Lake of the Woods is a rambling complex over 900 acres. As mentioned I had come to shoot the covered bridge and found out that this forest preserve had a lot more than a forest.

Upon arriving at the west gate we discovered a wonderfully kept and well rounded collection of early American artifacts in the Early American Museum. Describing every aspect of life in early Illinois from living with the Indians to getting the crops harvested, there’s not a bit of early American life that’s missed. Stunning examples of antique furniture, tools and explanations of techniques inhabit every square inch of this beautiful piece of architecture.  There’s also a great educational / play area for the kids.
Behind the museum is the stunning Botanical Garden. A photographers dream, this sprawling complex is alive with every manor of ornamental flower, shrub and tree. In the center is a picture perfect oriental influenced bridge and lily pond, backed by a beautiful waterfall. What a gem! The area is a popular spot for weddings and can be rented for such an occasion.
Moving up the road, we came to the Covered Bridge that I’d come to photograph. This structure was built when the original 80 acre tract of land was acquired to join the two sections of the park. It’s 140 foot span is open to pedestrian and motor traffic and was renovated in 1996. A great example of a more modern covered bridge constructed with classic early American architectural style!
Venturing over the bridge one finds an award winning regulation 18 hole golf course and extensive camping, fishing and day use areas. There are kayaks and rowboats for rent on the lake, a 3 mile bike/running path and woodland trails. A six story bell tower caps the high point of the park with a carillon chiming out a happy tune now and again.
I’d come to shoot a bridge and found so much more at this park….what a great place to spend a day with the family, with so much to do one could visit again and again……..

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-Ed Baumgarten
The North Face Closeouts at REI OUTLET!