Deb Lahey Nature Trails

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Measuring 1/3 of a mile, the Deb Lahey Nature Trails highlight native Illinois habitats through restored vignettes, gardens, and more all year long.

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Time of Year
Year Round

Museum visitors can explore local plants and wildlife up close through all four seasons, and connect the dots between what they experience both inside and outside the museum building. Whether your interests include native plants, migratory birds, or local butterflies, there’s something for everyone.

The award-winning Nature Trails are Nature Museum’s biggest exhibit and are open to the public year-round. In June 2022, the exhibit was dedicated to retired President and CEO Deborah Lahey in honor of her 12 years of leadership and commitment to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.

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    Woody Wickham Butterfly Garden
    The flowers in this garden provide nectar to butterflies, other insects, and birds that are attracted by the flowers’ bright colors and scents. This garden also contains host plants, or specific plants on which butterflies will lay their eggs. Click here to learn more.

  • Bird garden

    Bird Garden
    Many birds travel through Chicago as they migrate to different locations throughout the year. This bird garden is planted with trees, shrubs, and groundcover that offer food, protection, and nesting sites to birds in the area.

  • Tallgrass

    Elizabeth Plotnick Tallgrass Prairie
    Prairies are home to many grasses and wildflowers but very few, if any, trees. Fires help to control the growth of non-prairie plants like trees. Prairie plants survive these fires because their growing buds are below ground. Keep reading to learn more about controlled prairie burns.

  • Pickerel

    Pickerelweed Pond
    This small wetland provides a home for plants, animals, and other living things. It gets its name from a flowering wetland plant known as pickerelweed. Invertebrates such as dragonflies, beetles, and snails, and vertebrates such as Canada geese and tadpoles, can often be found in this small pond.

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    Bur Oak Savanna
    Savannas are grasslands with scattered trees. Fire-resistant bur oak trees are speckled throughout this savanna, providing a mix of sun and shade for the plants that grow beneath them.

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    Urban Vegetable Garden
    The edible plants in this garden—onions, herbs, tomatoes, and more—grow well in the Chicago area. Our horticulturists start planting seeds in the early spring and keep the harvest going all through the growing season.

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    Black Oak Sand Savanna
    In a savanna, trees (in this case, black oak trees) grow scattered among the grasses and wildflowers. The plants in the black oak sand savanna are growing in sandy soil that was once a sand dune on Lake Michigan’s shore.

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    North Pond Observation Pier
    The pier overlooks the North Pond Nature Sanctuary, a vibrant wetland right in the middle of Lincoln Park. It is a vantage point for the over 200 resident and migratory bird species, the 100 native plant species and the thousands of insects, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that live here year-round.

Buy Your Tickets Today

Experience nature and science up close with a trip to the Nature Museum.

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