By Kelly Youngblood
The District encourages people to bring their own hand sanitizer and follow all current Champaign County Public Health District mask-wearing and social distancing recommendations. Updates and more details can be found at www.ccfpd.org.
If you’re a nature-lover looking for a place to get away and clear your mind, you don’t have to go far. River Bend Forest Preserve in Mahomet is a great little escape from the hustle and bustle of life.
I visited there recently with my three children (plus two “extras” to entice my children into going in the first place) and was amazed by the beautiful scenery and serene feel of the place.
Despite recurrent complaints about bugs, heat, and the precious energy my kids had to exert, I managed to enjoy myself and definitely plan to go back. Next time, I’m leaving the kids at home though.
In the brief time I was able to visit, here’s what I learned you can do at River Bend Forest Preserve:
- Kayak, canoe or boat with any watercraft that doesn’t require gasoline.
- Stare at the lake and appreciate the beauty and peace of the area.
The 280-acre site is located south of Mahomet off of Route 47, 1602 Mid America Road. It’s kind of tucked away, down a dusty, country road. It feels a little secluded and private, which I liked.
The preserve used to be a sand and gravel mine and features the county’s biggest lake. It’s 95 acres and 54 feet deep! The lake is pretty amazing and I was genuinely impressed by its size and beauty.
People can fish there as well as kayak or canoe. (Watercraft power is limited to oar, paddle, or electric trolling motors). No swimming or wading is allowed.
When we first arrived, the kids wanted to hit Possibility Pier first. It’s a huge pier that includes a “floating water trail,” built-in picnic tables and benches, and a partial roof for shade. You can fish right off the pier too.
Those with mobility impairments take note: Possibility Pier is accessible to all, and allows “a seated person to fish through railing slots and use tackle tables at just the right height.”
Next, we hit one of the trails. About halfway through the one-mile nature trail, their energy was somehow depleted and bribes of Dairy Queen ice cream had to be delivered.
But we did manage to see the 9-11 Memorial Woodland located on the trail. The first tree in the woodland tribute was planted on September 11, 2002. Now, the area is full of oak, walnut, cherry, maple and sycamore trees. The memorial also includes a sign and a bench.
We also stopped a few times to read some great informational signs that explained some history and facts about the area.
With the promise of an ice cream treat at the end of their journey, the kids picked up the pace and eventually made it to the end of the trail.
I would have liked to have gone on the other trail, a 1.2-mile multi-use trail that could be used for biking or walking, but the kids were not exactly excited about continuing our adventure.
So we got in the car and suddenly their legs weren’t going to fall off anymore and they miraculously bounced back from the near-death experience I subjected them to.
Regardless of their lack of approval, I can’t wait to go back to River Bend and enjoy some much-needed alone time.
General Tips for Visitors
- There are bathrooms on site.
- A covered pavilion with tables is located near the lake and could serve as a great place for a picnic or family get-together.
- Don’t forget the bug spray.
- Bring water. I didn’t notice any fountains on the site.
- Leave grumpy children who will likely complain about “being in nature” at home.
River Bend opens at 7 a.m. year-round, weather-permitting, and closes at dusk.
For more information about River Bend Forest Preserve and the boating rules and regulations, click here.
More on all your favorite outdoor activities:
- Fishing Fun for Families in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Visiting Champaign-Urbana Area Parks and Playgrounds with your Family
- Walk Your Way Through Champaign-Urbana
- Avoid the Mud and Muck with Mulch-Free Playgrounds in Champaign-Urbana
- Hiking Trails For Families in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Gardens and Flower Farms in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Great Places for a Picnic in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Family-Friendly Bike Trails in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Where to Go Boating with your Family in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Creek Stomping Your Way Around Champaign-Urbana
- Camping with Your Family Near Champaign-Urbana
- Parks Minus Playgrounds We Love Around Champaign-Urbana
- 6 Places to Experience Nature with Kids Near Champaign-Urbana
Top spots for outdoor recreation near Champaign-Urbana:
- Meet Me Halfway: Kankakee River State Park
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- 8 Reasons You’ll Love Visiting Allerton Park with Your Family
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- Parent’s Guide to Busey Woods in Urbana
- River Bend Forest Preserve in Mahomet a Great Escape