637 Posts
1 Deer Season in Central IL

Late fall is deer season in Central Illinois, and hundreds of hunters make the journey to the prairie to try their luck.  I’m not a hunter, but rest assured, the camera is always up and ready for the next great ‘shot’ when moving through the countryside. One evening, in a 30 minute drive I racked up 100 deer images. Being in rut, and with romance on their minds,  the deer aren’t at the most clear thinking critters, and so, tend to be a little more tolerant of humans. Sunrise and sunset are the prime times for catching these critters in the open.
At the end of this particular day (sun dropping fast) I happened across a doe walking the edge of the woods, very patiently pacing back and forth as if looking for a good place to jump in. I shot many, many still of her, and finally got bored with the look and switched the D3s over to video. The video is too big for this site, but you can find it on my flickr stream here:

Whitetail video

…it wasn’t until opening the images for editing later and zooming in that I realized her ‘boyfriend’ was waiting in the woods behind her, explaining her reluctance to leave.

Although rutting season tends to bring the deer out in the open more often, any time of year is great wildlife image making time on the prairie in Central Illinois.

-Ed Baumgarten

2 Biggest Coloring Book on Earth

Showing Off Her Colors by Tom Yinger

It’s  November now, with the election behind  and a chill in the air in the early mornings.

The cool weather usually comes later in Illinois’ southern counties than it does in places like Batavia, where I grew up.   But come it does, and with it the decorative work that nature does with our deciduous trees.  

We see occasional color at different times of the year, the maples turn their white bottoms toward the sun to indicate they need rain, some of the trees begin to change color when there is a prolonged drought. We had a long drought this summer, and precious little rain since the end of September.

The greatest coloring has been taking place in the last few weeks. We’ve had a few frosts, and the reds, yellows and maroons have made their appearance. There are lots of places in Southern Illinois where you can enjoy the fall colors, particularly if you travel roads like US 51, Illinois 154, Illinois 127, Illinois 3, and Illinois 149.  I drove 51 south of Carbondale, always a lovely ride, with the Shawnee Hills providing surprises around every curve, to Anna, and then west on Illinois 146 to Jonesboro.  Jonesboro is the location of the southernmost of the Lincoln Douglas debates. I followed the roundabout in Jonesboro, turning away from the 1858 Senate election this time, to the 2010 Grapevine Trail. I drove Illinois 127 south out of Jonesboro toward Tamms. There are areas along this route where the tree cover is sometimes close to the road, and at other places, pulled back far enough so that it provides a good view for driver and passenger.  I followed the highway south to Tamms turn right onto the Grapevine Trail. There are farms along the road, and there are sometimes farm equipment moving slowly along the highway, so caution is needed. This is a curvy road, so passing zones are few and far between.

As you complete your tour on the Grapevine Trail, you will be passing through McClure, a small town in Alexander County. It meets Illinois 3, our portion of the Great River Road, here in McClure. If you turn right, you will be passing some very pretty country, along what is called the American Bottom. This is the flood plain of the Mississippi River, and extends quite a distance to the East between McClure and Illinois 149. The bluffs are considerably closer to the road to the north, toward Chester, and the St. Louis suburbs.

If you plan to pay us a visit, there are several places you might choose to stay. There are bed and breakfasts throughout the area, if you click on this site, and look under accommodations, you should find a comfortable place to rest your weary heads.

If you happen to be traveling on Illinois 3, south of McClure toward where Illinois 146 turns west toward the bridge, the Bill Emerson Memorial bridge, after sunset is lit up in the most striking manner.  The view is breathtaking!

I also recommend Giant City Lodge. There is a large building, constructed by the CCC during the Depression, and they feature an excellent family dinner on Sunday. There are also cabins, with all the modern conveniences available. I have friends in Central Illinois who regularly visit and always rent a cabin at Giant City. 
 Bill Byrnes
3 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

4 Fall in IL

Fall In Illinois

It’s time to enjoy the fall colors of nature in Illinois.  I recently visited Kankakee County, where you will discover many fall colors.  I had a picture perfect day to take in the colors of the trees. I visited the Kankakee River State Park which has over 4,000 acres where you can hike, bike, and fish. Taking in the fall scenery is a great way to relax and enjoy the outdoors. I could have easily spent all day viewing the scenery, but I decided to move along to view more places before my drive home.  It  was suggested I see the newly opened Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bradley house right on the river path. 

Wright in Kanakakee (Bradley House)

Tours are available to view the Bradley home, a sight to see for all Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts. If you enjoy a neighborhood feel, stroll along Kankakee’s Riverview Historic District. The Riverview Historic District has many Victorian homes and English gardens along the river that reminds you of a bygone era.  

After lunch I decided to check out the local corn maze. I needed to walk off a few of those onion rings.  So I headed to The Fall Gathering out in the Kankakee Valley Park District (kvpd.com). This maze is 10 acres large and takes about an hour to walk through. I made it to a few markers and turned back, call me chicken!  The haunted maze is October 23rd & 30th if you like to be scared.  The maze is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5PM, $5.00 per person.

The Fall Gathering

I spent a great day in Kankakee county and will be returning soon.  There is so much I missed, like the Barn Quilt Tour, and The Historical Society, and the land of the original Dairy Queen. I was told the original was torn down, however there is still a DQ standing in its place.  On my next visit to Kankakee County I will start at DQ, since I missed dessert last time.



5 Cathedral of Clouds

Long, long ago, in another century in fact, I sought inspiration in chapels of pine and spruce. I sometimes went there for solitude, sometimes for friendship, but in each visit, I was able to exchange my carbon dioxide for the oxygen so generously provided by the green things which were my host.

This past weekend, I was privileged to attend the consecration of love shared by a young man and a young lady. One was a grown up lady, who I remember as a child, and the other, a new acquaintance. They chose a larger, leafier setting for their ceremony, on a point jutting out into a manmade lake, but still surrounded by a canopy far older than any of those in attendance.

They were married at Picnic Shelter number 3 at Wayne Fitzgerall State Park, near Sesser.

The shelter and picnic area overlook Rend Lake, a large manmade body of water created and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are a number of features found near the lake, including an artist colony, a golf course, and a resort facility, including modern cabins that look right out over the lake.

If you are interested in a weekend getaway, some good fishing, a little golf, a wedding, or a work related conference, you might check out the website at http://www.rendlakeresort.com You can also call them at 1-800-633-3341.

The park is located along Illinois 154. If you are traveling along Interstate 57, take exit 77 west toward Sesser. The turn for the park is on the right. The golf course is on the left. You can see a humongous golf tee and ball as you approach from any direction.

The drive to Rend Lake is gorgeous when our leaves turn. Our hot, dry summer has caused some of the trees to color already.   I’ll be exploring more of our “leafy” adventures in future blogs. There is plenty of green space to be seen as illustrated by the Artist who created the cathedral of clouds.

Enjoy your travels!

-Bill Byrnes