Editor's Note: Palos Patch will be profiling prominent places in town that are unique to our area.
The Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens offers area residents a local retreat from busy schedules and the hectic pace of daily life.
Lake Katherine provides patrons the chance to hike on its trails; view and experience an arboretum, various plants, flowers, woodlands and prairies; enjoy the sights of its waterfall and lake; and catch glimpses of nearby animals.
Lake Katherine itself is a 20-acre man-made body of water with a waterfall on its eastern edge. Filled with muskie, largemouth bass, bluegill, hybrid sunfish, channel catfish and black crappie, the lake serves as home to muskrats and beaver. Additionally, "a wide variety" of reptiles and amphibians are also at the lake, according to the website, and water birds and shore birds can be found there as well.
Those creatures are safe due to the lake's recreation of "a natural biological process" that filters and aerates run-off before it is sent into a spillway into the Cal-Sag Channel, the website states.
Animals aren't the only ones who can have a good time on the lake. With a one-mile trail surrounding it and kayak and canoe rentals, patrons have their choice of how to interact with the water. Watercraft rentals are available from mid-May through October for $8 per hour, per person. Participants must be above age six, with those under age 17 needing adult accompaniment.
The Frank Passerelli Nature Center, also located at Lake Katherine, has a lower-level Wildlife Center and offers various youth programs about environmental and preservation issues.
Lake Katherine's botanical gardens include annual and perennial display gardents; natural and native areas; a Butterfly garden; a rock garden; and demonstration gardens, according to its website. The gardens are mainted by University of Illinois Extension master gardeners, as well as volunteers and Lake Katherine staff.
The space also includes a Children's Forest, which was planted by schoolchildren over 20 years ago. It is located near a vernal pond, and features the now-demolished Palos School's School House Arch.
Several of Lake Katherine's facilities are available for rent. The Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens is located at 7402 W. Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights. It is open from dawn until dusk daily, while the Nature Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays For more information, call (708) 361-1873.