Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights IL

Lake Katherine Palos Heights IL

Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens is an 85-acre non-profit park that includes woodlands, prairie, wetlands, flower gardens and a 10-acre lake.  Located in Palos Heights, Illinois approximately 27 miles southwest of Chicago, Lake Katherine is a wonderful spot to enjoy nature!

Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens

Things To Do At Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens

There is something for everyone at this beautiful south suburban destination. A good place to spend a few hours or even a day.  For starters, take a hike, go for a run, or walk your dog along the 1-mile lake loop trail … or on the other trails along the Cal Sag Channel.

The wood-chipped path is easy to traverse and wide enough to give you enough space to pass a slower moving group.  Savor all the flora and fauna along the way and be sure to take some photos of the lake, wildflowers, and regal trees.

Lake Katherine Is Home To Many Bird Species – Identify Them With This Handy Guide

Lake Katherine Hiking Trails

  Mulch Lined, Easy To Navigate Paths Surround The Perimeter Of Lake Katherine

Enjoy a lovely walk with a view along the lake. We visited in mid-September and delighted in seeing a variety of butterflies, bullfrogs, squirrels, rabbits, birds and waterfowl … even a bevy of swans.

Per their website, Lake Katherine is home to a diverse population of wildlife. More than 120 species of birds, 19 kinds of mammals, a dozen types of fish, and 17 species of reptiles and amphibians have been sighted at Lake Katherine.


View Of The Cal Sag Channel From Lake Katherine’s Loop Trail

Did You Know? The Cal-Sag Channel (short for “Calumet-Saganashkee Channel”) is a navigation canal in southern Cook County, Illinois. It serves as a channel between the Little Calumet River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. It is 16 miles (26 km) long and was dug over an 11-year period, from 1911 until 1922.

Lake Katherine is a stopping-point on Cal Sag’s 26-mile-long trail, which runs from Lemont to the west to the Burnham Greenway near the Indiana border.


Lake Katherine Nature Center And Botanic Gardens

Rent A Colorful Kayak And Explore The Lake From The Water

Get out on the water and explore Lake Katherine up close! Kayak and canoe rentals begin the end of May and continue until mid-October weather permitting. Boats are available Monday thru Sunday from 10am to 5pm.  Canoes and kayaks costs $10 per person per hour to rent. Participants must be six years of age or older and children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanical Gardens

Lots Of Fun Things For The Kids To Explore And Learn At Lake Katherine

Fun Activities For The Kids At Lake Katherine

Nature is for playing in! Go outdoors, breathe the fresh air and get active. Discover, explore and enjoy all the park and the natural world has to offer. There are things to climb on, puzzles to solve, plants to touch & identify, get your exercise and learn some interesting stuff too.

Kid Stuff At Lake Kathrine

Discover Cool Plant Life At Lake Katherine … Follow The Signs And Learn New Things

Did You Know? Lamb’s ear is a perennial herb native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran. It gets the common name from the silver silky hairs that densely cover the surface of the leaves making you feel like you are touching the soft ears of a lamb, as well as the leaves that curve into the shape of lamb’s ears. They are very easy to grow and a favorite of children.

Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanical Gardens

Another Big Hit With The Younger Set – A Giant Chair To Climb On & Take Photos

The Nature Center was unfortunately closed the day we visited. It features live snakes, turtles, bunnies, and other animals found in the area, as well as interesting books and exhibits for kids. There are also lots of fossils, a variety of shells, coloring books, and a cute scavenger hunt that the kids can take along with them once they venture out on the hiking trails.


Classes are offered here for all age groups on a variety of topics from Monarch butterflies, identifying area birds, forest exploration, nature photography, cooking with herbs, and fish of the Great Lakes region … to name a few listed on their website.

Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights IL

The Gateway To The Children’s Area Is The Arch From Palos School That Once Stood Near The Site

Botanical Delights At Lake Katherine

Just outside the nature center was a picturesque butterfly and fresh herb garden. This well visited area features raised garden beds, arches, and benches to rest and observe a nice variety of pollinators drawn to the butterfly magnet plants including zinnias, coneflowers, pentas, lantana and marigolds.

Butterfly Garden At Lake Katherine

The Butterfly Garden Was All Abuzz With Bees And Butterflies When We Visited In Mid-September

Conservation efforts at Lake Katherine are always ongoing. The use of native Illinois plants, flowers, and grasses, plus restoration of prairie have helped Lake Katherine become a true nature preserve.


Some of the native plants you will encounter in the preserve include: Indian Grass, Little Bluestem, Purple Coneflower, New England Aster, Milkweed, Compass Plant, Goldenrod, Blood Root, Wild Geranium and Jack-in-the-pulpit.

Explore Native Plants & Trees For Zone 5 Yards … Click Here To View

Native Plants At Lake Katherine

Glowing Native Goldenrod Adding Color To A Late Summer Day

Did You Know?  Goldenrod is a very important plant for the environment and pollinators.  It provides tons of nectar for bees/butterflies as well as migrating Monarch Butterflies.  Additionally, there are tons of moth caterpillars that eat the foliage.  (Moths being the unsung pollinating heroes!)

This beautiful man-made waterfall (pictured below) is located just east of the Nature Center. It is 300 feet in length and at the highest point is 30 feet. It joins up with the lake on the east side of the park and provides aeration for the lake.

Even though this is a man-made structure, it fits wonderfully with the overall look and flow of the park. There are several areas where you can view the falls either standing on the trail or seated on one of the many park benches found in the park.

Add A Water Feature To Your Garden … Inviting To Birds, Dragonflies And Other Creatures

Lake Katherine Waterfall Palos Heights IL

Don’t miss the dahlia exhibit, especially if you visit Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanical Gardens in August or September when these beauties are at their peak! Presented and cared for by the Southtown Dahlia Club each year, they offer programs to take you through all of the steps required to grow these gorgeous flowers. Their events include meetings, tuber/plant sales, garden walks, a Dahlia Show, an Awards Banquet … several of which take place on the Lake Katherine grounds.

Dahlia Exhibit At Lake Katherine

A Sunny Dahlia Specimen On Display At Lake Katherine

This pretty garden below was just steps from the clubhouse. Featuring easy care shrub roses, sedum, zinnias, grasses, marigolds and more.

Did You Know?  Sedums (a.k.a. Stonecrop) are a large family of well-behaved plants known for their thick succulent foliage, late summer / early fall color, and low maintenance – drought tolerant properties.

Discover The Many Types Of Hardy Sedums For Your Zone 5 / 6 Garden … See Them Here


Gardens At Lake Katherine Palos Heights IL

Gardens With A View At Lake Katherine Featuring Annuals & Perennials

There was also a little free library where gently used nature books could be borrowed or donated — a nice added bonus to the garden area. Flower Chick is a big fan of these small treasures! (photo below)

Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens

Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens

Lake Katherine is the perfect place to visit for just a few hours or even longer to get your daily dose of fresh air, wildlife, and beautiful scenery.  There are many benches peppered throughout the grounds to just relax and observe unspoiled nature.

Such a peaceful spot to exercise, learn, take photos, and enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors.

Kissing Fish Sculpture at Lake Katherine

The Charming Kissing Fish Sculpture At Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens

While You’re In The Area …

Don’t miss Frangella’s Italian Market not far from Lake Katherine in Palos Park at 11925 South 80th Avenue.  Established in 1993 by Gina and Francesco Frangella, originally from Calabria, Italy. 

Frangella Italian Market Palos Park

This mom-and-pop store has a wonderful deli with meats, cheeses, breads and salads.  We really enjoyed the tasty tortellini salad.  Their aisles are stocked with homemade sauces, imported oils, vinegars, pastas, cookies, candy, coffee, giardiniera and much more.  Sit outside on their patio and enjoy an al fresco lunch.

Insider Tip:  Order a deli submarine sandwich – you won’t be disappointed.  Flower Chick and her hubby shared a turkey club. It was chock full of tender turkey meat and served on garlic bread with lettuce and tomato. Delizioso!

Visit Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens

Serene Views Of Nature’s Splendor At Lake Katherine In Palos Heights IL

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