Our latest in the "Great Parks!" series is one of the best-kept secrets in the far western 'burbs. It isn't easy to find on a map, but it's definitely worth the effort to get there.
Park Name: Headwaters Conservation Area in Campton Township, west of Geneva.
Location: According to Campton Township, the address is 43W535 Beith Road, but I couldn’t get that to come up on Google Maps or my car’s GPS system.
So here are directions: From a starting point of Randall Road and State Street (Route 38) in Geneva, head west on Route 38 for about 4 miles. You’ll see a yellow road sign indicating Beith Road is coming up. Take a right on Beith Road and head north on it (up a rolling hill) for about 1 ½ miles. The entrance to Headwaters Conservation Area will be on your left. The parking lot is near the entrance. If youre coming from farther west, Beith Road eventually meets up with Route 47.
Amenities: This is a 349-acre site, most of it devoted to open space. It includes a great playground with equipment for both younger and older children; picnic shelters and tables; charcoal grills; gravel walking trails; equestrian trails; a viewing platform; a fenced off-leash dog area; prairie and wetland restoration areas and a small woodland. There are no indoor restrooms, but there is a portable toilet near the parking lot.
Good For: Families, children, dog owners, walkers, horse riders, nature lovers. The park is made up of three parcels acquired over several years by Campton Township to preserve the headwaters of Blackberry Creek.
Our Experience: I now know why it’s so hard to find any evidence of Headwaters Conservation Area on the Web: The people who do know about it want to keep this gem a secret!
I had never even heard of this park until our guest contributor Sheila Corcoran-Abraham mentioned it in one of her columns. A GWYM readers also recommended it on Facebook when I was looking for new spots to profile in this “Great Parks!” series. From then on, I was a woman on a mission, and my daughter and I finally found it and visited it in early September.
The park is just lovely, with both a gazebo and “viewing platform” looking out on acres of restored prairie.
The playground is in a sunken area and features cushy wood chip mulch. It has a real “clubhouse in the woods” vibe going on. There are slides, tunnels, a "garbage can" musical instrument and lots of climbing elements, including a treehouse-like ladder, climbing wall, crescent-shaped steps and a “spider web.” There’s a small playground set for the 2 and under set, too, and a swing set.
It was about 6 p.m. when we visited, and it was truly a multi-use park: A number of dog owners were either walking their pets on the trails or letting them run off leash in the fenced dog run; one family brought their carryout food for a picnic in the gazebo and two more were enjoying the playground along with us. We didn’t see any horses, but hope to on a future visit.
Because it was late and getting a bit chilly, we didn’t walk on the gravel trails, but from a look at “Google Earth,” they look quite extensive. And from what I could see from the main section of the park, I bet the walk would be just gorgeous.
Headwaters Conservation Area was initially hard to find, but definitely worth the search. Now that I know where it is, we'll be planning a return trip at least once each season to view the ever-changing landscape.
Editor's Note: Check out more photos from Headwaters Conservation Area in our Go West Flickr album.