May 16, 2016

Naperville Riverwalk and Burlington Park (May 2016, IL)

DuPage River

Naperville Riverwalk and Burlington Park
Naperville, IL

May 15, 2016
Burlington Park Center: 41.778306, -88.165621
Start of Riverwalk (North): 41.772977, -88.165256
End of Downtown Portion of Riverwalk: 41.771600, -88.149725
Partly cloudy, with sun breaking through at times. 50-60° F
Photos: Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm and 70-300mm; my OnePlus One phone

We had a weekend pass still active on Metra for the day having visited the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe the day before, so we decided to take a Sunday trip to Naperville. We had both said we have wanted to explore it for years but had yet to do so. Our recent trip to Brookfield Zoo triggered a desire to explore other sites on the Metra BSNF Green Line, including Naperville and Aurora, so we picked Naperville for our day's exploration. A quick exploration on the web revealed that Naperville had recently finished a beautiful riverwalk and had another forested park within walking distance, so it made the cut for the Sunday trip.

Naperville Metra

The Metra trip took about an hour from Union Station. The station is just north of Downtown Naperville and a few blocks walk from our first point of interest: the Burlington Park trailhead. Burlington Park is ostensibly named as such because its northern border hugs the Burlington Northern train line on which our Metra train ran. A walk south from the park would connect us with the start of the Riverwalk, a newly paved path along the DuPage River.

Burlington Park

We found the Burlington Park trailhead at the end of Laird St., a residential road, right before the train tracks. If you didn't know to look for it, you'd miss it. A small sign was hand painted to beckon walkers into the woods.

Burlington Park Trailhead

The path immediately put us in a canopy of dense small woods with an amazing amount of undergrowth and downed trees. The very air was damp, and birds of all kinds filled the air with a symphony of songs. This very small forest was coming alive, just waiting for its time due to our late spring start this year.

Burlington Park Trail

Burlington Park Trail

In the park, there's a large field and gathering area. The grass was inviting as we stood for a while and just took in the view. A firepit surrounded by log benches rested in the middle of the clearing.

Burlington Park Shelter

Burlington Park Firepit

At the clearing, hawks screeched above us, letting us know we're in the home of the wild. Despite the park only being a few acres, it was dense with life. The circling hawks directly above my head were trying to find their next meal.

Hawk at Burlington Park

Hawk at Burlington Park

Some wildflowers and blooming trees along the path greeted us with some color among the green of the new spring underbrush leaves.


Obedient Plant


The path after the clearing became very swampy. Recent rains and saturated ground caused the path to be thick with mud. I'm guessing the land is a natural wetland. After hopping a few of the dense mud patches on the trail, we decided to retreat. We were only wearing tennis shoes, much to our frustration.

Wetlands at Burlington Park

We backtracked to the clearing and progressed south on the main road into the park only to find more saturated ground. The pools under the trees were inviting to a few ducks we saw who called the small forest lakes home.

Burlington Park Road

Ivy climbed many of the trees in the dense forest swamp. The park is small, but the ecosystem was intriguing. With all the water and dense underbrush, I wonder who else calls this damp forest home? I also wondered if the water remains for much of the season, or if the ground will eventually drink it up.

Ivy crawling trees

Wetlands at Burlington Park

Eventually, we found ourselves back in a residential neighborhood. We proceeded south another two blocks to find the start of the Naperville Riverwalk.

Naperville Riverwalk

First off, we were impressed by the investment made on the path. From the trailhead, the brick path, lighting, and signage were classy. It wasn't too overdone and retained the natural aspects of the river's edge. One can still walk along the path and enjoy the water without getting muddy or not able to see.

Naperville Riverwalk Trailhead

Walking the path

Wildflowers contrasted with the walls of green on each side.

Wild dwarf iris


Wildflowers on the path

Every so often, a view of the DuPage River would emerge, allowing us to peek at the flowing current. The river was running a bit high it seemed, probably due to recent rains in the city that have not seemed to cease this year.

DuPage River

Naperville Riverwalk

Along the water were also pools of water, as still as if they were green and brown glass. These small bodies remind of the floodplain and wetland aspect of this old suburban town.

DuPage River

The brick road hugged the edge of the river as we got closer to downtown, continuing to remind us of the natural forces at play in this ecosystem.

Naperville Riverwalk

DuPage River

Naperville Riverwalk Path

Some homes were on the other side of the river along the path. Their steps visited the water's edge, allowing for some easy fishing and water watching. Could be nice to live there, at least until the inevitable flooding that occurs.

Houses on the DuPage River

A butterfly landed right at our feet as we approached the main park area downtown, giving us a moment to stop and take a photo.


The path meets the main river park area downtown, with playgrounds, a public swimming pool, shelters, and lots of fields for kids to play. Geese guarded the water's edge as we continued down the path, taking a moment to stare down any passers-by as they approached.

Naperville Riverwalk

Goose on lookout

Beautiful bridges spanned across the river to connect the sides. One bridge was an iron cross-beam, the other a covered wooden cross-beam. Architecturally, they were really enjoyable.

Bridge across DuPage River

Covered bridge

The views from the middle of the wooden bridge were fun as the water rushed rapidly below us.

View from the crossbeam bridge

I took a moment to get a photo taken with the wooden cross-beam bridge. It was too cool to pass up. I loved the rustic feel while walking through it.

Me at one of the covered pedestrian bridges

Cross-beam bridge

After crossing the river, we were surprised to find a tower overlooking a large field. Walking through the forest and coming upon a tower is rather fun for fantasy folks like us who enjoy some Lord of the Rings. No wizards were battling atop, however.

Naperville Carillon / Moser Tower

Naperville Carillon / Moser Tower

Moser Tower houses the Millennium Carillon, which has recitals throughout the year. A large field surrounds the tower's eastern side, giving some outstanding views.

Tower between two trees

A small lake is also near the tower. Quarry Lake provides visitors with opportunities to rent paddleboats and enjoy the nice weather.

Gazeebo at the basin

Quarry Lake

The sun had finally come out in mid-May, and as such, it was an excuse for local Illinoisians to enjoy the water. Although the river was almost up to the riverwalk's concrete paths at the edge, it didn't stop many families and couples from enjoying time at the river.

Picnic at the Riverwalk

Covered bridge across the DuPage

I have a thing for pines and evergreens, and caught the moon as I was snapping a photo of this tree that was going to cone.

Moon and cones

After the downtown area, the Riverwalk bends south. We decided to explore downtown, leaving the southern portion of the Riverwalk for another day. Central Park is another nice spot downtown in which the birds were chirping and the sun was shining. A grand church steeple projected its presence from the park. The resulting photos illustrate the quintessential Americana portrait...small town splendor.

Naperville Central Park Military Memorial

Naperville Central Park

Church in the distance

In all, it was a perfect day trip. There are plenty of restaurants downtown and the reimagined green space seems to have embraced the natural aspects of the habitat. As a result, many of the birds and other wildlife call the riverwalk home. We saw multiple chipmunks scurry across the brick path, and the trees were filled with songbirds.

For a day trip, it was really easy to get there. This path is also very kid and family friendly, and the path itself is not strenuous at all. There are plenty of benches every so often. Jessica and I discussed it on the way back, and the one word that we used to describe the experience was serene. Everything was peaceful. We'll definitely be returning here when we are bored and looking to get out of the city for a nice green space walk.

As always, my stories are no substitute for making your own, so jump out to Naperville and give the riverwalk a try! If you've been already, every time you go you'll see something new.


Map of path taken (GPS trace): 

Photo Album

Note: The photo below is a photo album. Hover over or tap to gain slideshow controls, or view the album on Flickr.
Naperville Riverwalk and Burlington Park

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