Cook County Forest Preserves

Cook County Forest Preserves

Cook County Forest Preserves

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The Cook County Forest Preserves are a network of open spaces, containing forest, prairie, wetland, streams, and lakes, that are set aside as natural areas. Cook County contains Chicago, Illinois, and is the center of a densely-populated urban metropolitan area in northeastern Illinois. The Forest Preserves encompass approximately 68,000 acres (275 kmĀ²) of open space within the urban surroundings of Chicago. It contains facilities for recreation, as well as a zoo and gardens.


The Forest Preserves have a different purpose than parks, also they generally do not contain organized recreational facilities such as tennis courts or softball diamonds. They do contain hiking, bicycling, and riding trails, as well as facilities for nature and group activities, and they are heavily used for picnicking. They are administered by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, a special taxation district that crosses municipal boundaries. Their headquarters are located in River Forest near Harlem Avenue and Lake Street.


Both the Brookfield Zoo (managed by the Chicago Zoological Society) and the Chicago Botanic Gardens (managed by the Chicago Horticultural Society) are located in the forest preserves. The Forest Preserve District also maintains eleven public golf courses.

National Sites

The Ned Brown Forest Preserve contains Busse Woods, a National Natural Landmark. The District also administers the Chicago Portage National Historic Site.

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