Nature at the Confluence in South Beloit, Illinois is a little slice of nature in an urban area. The property is called Nature at the Confluence because it’s where the Rock River, Turtle Creek and Kelly Creek meet.
Nature at the Confluence is a 5-acre prairie restoration, learning gardens, pollinator gardens and nature center. They offer free classes and events throughout the year and are open to explore from sunup to sundown every day.
If you’re looking for a place to take your kids for an easy hike, Nature at the Confluence is perfect. It was just right for my 5 year old and 2 year old. The trails are a good distance from the road and make a loop that’s easy to follow. We stopped to look at plants, played in the nature area, and enjoyed smelling and taste-testing plants growing in the Tasting Garden.
There are useful signs posted throughout the area that give you more information on the purpose of the plants and the history of the land.
Address: 306 Dickop St., South Beloit, IL
Hours: Dawn until dusk daily
The Learning Center is open from June through August.
Closed on Monday
Tuesday – Friday from 10 am – 6 pm
Saturday from 10 am – 4 pm
Sunday from 12 pm – 4 pm
Cost: Free admission
History of Nature at the Confluence
Nature at the Confluence stands at the site where Ke-Chunk (Turtle Village), a large Ho-Chunk (formerly called Winnebago) tribe once lived. At one point, Turtle Village has over 600 residents. Now, there is a beautiful sculpture of a Ho-Chunk dwelling honoring the Native people, made by Wisconsin Ho-Chunk artist Truman Lowe, where the village once stood. You can walk into the sculpture, but there is a sign asking visitors not to climb on it. There is a placard nearby that tells you about the history of the area and the Native people who called it home.
Nature at the Confluence opened in 2017. It spans 72 acres and is located where Turtle Creek meets the Rock River in South Beloit at exactly the half-way point of the Rock River Trail. There are currently 5 acres of prairie land, trails, and the Learning Center building, but more trails are planned for the future.
Nature at the Confluence is a non-profit organization that runs on volunteer support. If you’d like to support it, you can donate here.
What can you do at Nature at the Confluence?
There are several fun outdoor activities you can do at Nature at the Confluence. You can easily spend a few hours exploring the area. Here are some of the activities you can do on your visit.
Play in nature center: Kids can play in the natural play area where they can drag logs, stack twigs, and play in the teepee. A posted sign asks kids not to jump off of the items.
Visit the gardens: There are several gardens near the Nature Center that kids can explore including a fairy garden and a couple of tasting gardens where you can smell and taste what’s growing. Some items that you could sample include stevia, lavender, basil and more. This was my kids’ favorite part of the visit.
Hike: There is a .75 mile Rock River Birding and Hiking trail that’s perfect for spying eagles. The distance and flatness of the hike is great for taking kids along. The walk will take 15-30 minutes depending on how quickly you walk and how often you stop to look around. Most of the walk is shaded.
Paddle: If you have a kayak or canoe, you can bring it to paddle on Turtle Creek or the Rock River. You may spot wildlife like eagles, swans, beaver, ducks, and deer while you paddle.
Creek stomp: You can get into the water at Turtle Creek and splash around. Bring life jackets for small children as the water can move quickly.
Attend a class or event: Throughout the year, Nature at the Confluence hosts events for families, kids, and adults that center around nature education. These events are free or low-cost.