Into the Great Wide Open: Discover Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

After months indoors, the pandemic has made many of us profoundly more appreciative of outdoor spaces. As fall rolls in and you continue to look for ways to spend time outside before the icy chill of Chicago winter strikes, check out some of the breathtaking natural spaces protected by Openlands

Founded in 1963, Openlands is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the country. Their mission is to protect the natural and open spaces of Northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and to help balance and enrich lives. 

On the Openlands website, they provide an interactive map with the different Openlands conservation sites in Illinois — there are hundreds! For our readers on the North Shore and in the city, one of our favorites is the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. Located in Fort Sheridan, on the cusp of Highland Park and Highwood, it is one of the last remaining ravine and bluff ecosystems in the metropolitan area. 

Photo courtesy of Madison Muller

The long, winding trail that cuts through the preserve is the perfect respite for bikers and naturists. Visitors can enjoy wildlife, botany and a mesmerizing lake view all in one place, giving the illusion of travel far beyond the bustling city of Chicago. According to their website’s most recent coronavirus update, the preserve is remaining open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Be sure to check for updates before visiting.

Recognizing the importance of prioritizing conservation, Openlands works vigilantly to combat climate change in the Chicago area and to reduce our carbon footprint. They also have opportunities for volunteers to get involved in their efforts, such as tree-planting programs, school and community gardens and conservation easements. These continued conservation efforts are also supported through donations, which can be made on their website

Photo courtesy of Madison Muller


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Madison Muller is the Assistant Digital Editor at Better. A recent graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she approaches our contemporary media environment with compassion and candor. She is interested in writing about the intersectionality of social justice issues in marginalized communities and environmentalism. Madison proudly supports Action Now, a community organization that empowers and uplifts residents on Chicago’s West Side.

She also encourages reading and supporting The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. 

You can keep up with her reporting on Twitter and Instagram