Franklin Creek State Natural Area is located in Lee County, northwest of the village of Franklin Grove and east of Dixon just north of IL Rt. 38. Beautiful Franklin Creek flows throughout the 882-acre park. Several large natural springs, hardwood forests, bedrock outcroppings and a large variety of flora and fauna comprise a pristine ecosystem.
The mill spring, the largest in the park, provided water power for the largest grist mill in Lee County, constructed in 1847. The site includes a 198-acre nature preserve which is an outstanding and diverse natural area in a uniquely beautiful setting.
Low-lying areas along the creek bed support a bottomland forest dominated by silver maple and hackberry. Ravines support mesic upland forest characterized by sugar maple and basswood and paw paw. On drier sites, a dry-mesic forest of white oak, red oak, black oak, shagbark hickory and hop hornbeam occurs. A small glacial drift hill prairie remnant is present in the preserve.
The forested areas provide habitat for woodpeckers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos and warblers; and, raccoons, chipmunks, gray and fox squirrels, beaver, and deer. Nineteen species of fish have been recorded from Franklin Creek.
Franklin Creek SNA picnic shelters can be reserved through www.reserveamerica.com.
Hiking and seasonal cross country skiing and snowmobile trails, along with equestrian trails, are popular destinations for site visitors. The equestrian area contains 12 miles of trails developed and maintained by the Rock River Trail and Horseman's Association. Equestrian facilities include a picnic shelter, restrooms, drinking water and an outdoor show area.
Since 1987, the Franklin Creek Preservation Area Committee has been continuing their volunteer involvement by working to reconstruct the Franklin Creek Grist Mill. The original early-American corn meal and wheat flour producing mill was reconstructed and became operational in 1999. It is open to the public on weekend afternoons from April through October, and the mill building serves as a visitor center.