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5 ways to enjoy the outdoors in DeKalb County

DeKALB – Avid nature trail walker Ron Klein, 74, remembers when the meandering pavement he walks on daily was a railroad track through DeKalb. Still spending about 40 hours working as an area lawyer, a profession he's practiced for 51 years, the "retired" Klein finds time to get a three mile walk in daily along the nature trail.

"You sort of have the feeling you're in the woods out here," Klein said in between strides.

1. Fishing and camping

Known as the “Muskie Capital of Illinois,” Shabbona Lake State Park on Shabbona Grove Road, offers not only fishing, but hiking, biking and camping. However, most come for the fish.

“It’s a very pleasant, quiet experience here,” said Molly Haseman, Shabbona Lake office coordinator. “The lake is unique for the area. We’re surrounded by farmland, but then you have this beautiful woodland and lake area.”

Fishing can be done by boat or from the shore at Shabbona.

"My wife says if I don't bring home some blue gill, I'm in trouble," fisherman Bill Krachala quips before he shoves off the launch at Shabbona Lake in his boat.

Shabbona Lake is stored with large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, catfish, walleye, muskie, perch and more, according to its website. However, many people stop by for other glimpses of nature.

“We have people who come here for the bird watching,” Haseman said. “People also enjoy the park for picknicking.”

Bart Desch, superintendent of recreation for the Sycamore Park District, considers Sycamore Lake Rotary Park, 400 N. Cross St., to be a best kept secret for Sycamore, especially for fishing and enjoying the outdoors.

“I think it’s a hidden gem,” Desch said. “Many people might never be down that street in their life. But it’s a great place to talk a walk and fish.”

The Rotary Park off of State Street in DeKalb offers a fishing pier.

2. Hiking

DeKalb County Forest Preserves offer trails and sights for those who love nature, especially prairie flowers and grasses. With Afton Forest Preserve, off of Crego Road in DeKalb, and Merritt Prairie off of Keslinger Road in DeKalb, the prairie flowers look best in mid-summer, said Terry Hannan, superintendent of the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District.

“They’re nice places to go for a family hike or bike ride,” Hannan said. “From the end of June through the rest of the summer, the prairie flowers bloom and it’s a great way to enjoy nature.”

Garrison said DeKalb’s trails for hiking and biking, which include the Nature Trail in DeKalb, are a high priority for the park district.

“The trails are very popular,” Garrison said. “People love the connectivity of the trails, so it’s a priority for us.”

3. Biking

Hannan said there are many trails in the county not only for walking, but biking, as well. He said the Great Western Nature Trail, which stretches from Sycamore to St. Charles is popular, as well as the DeKalb/Sycamore Trail. Both are seeing traffic from visitors as the temps rise. Websites for the park districts include maps of trails that may be used for hiking and biking.

4. Water

Hannan said the Kishwaukee River is a good spot for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Many parks in the county offer access to the river; however, Hannan said it’s important to make sure one isn’t trespassing on any surrounding private property when enjoying the river.

Public pools in the county are also open for the season.

5. Skating

For those looking to try out some tricks, the county offers multiple skate parks, including those in DeKalb, Genoa and Sandwich.

Sandwich’s skate park, located in the north section of Milestone Park on North Castle Street, was recently constructed in 2012.

Chamberlain Skate Park, 400 E. Second St., Genoa, offers skateboarding and an in-line skating opportunities, and Katz Park, off of Dresser Road in DeKalb, offers the same. Katz Park is also home to a dog park, which is open to the public.

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