Snakes, turtles, frogs and more at Sand Ridge Nature Center

June 22, 2012 (SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill.)

Despite its coastal sounding name, the western fox snake is native to Cook County and you might find some of its relatives living in a forest preserve near you. One lives in the exhibit center at the Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland.

"We have aquatic turtles," said Jake Huffman, naturalist, Sand Ridge Nature Center. "We have terrestrial box turtles. We have several different types of snakes. We have frogs."

And the list goes on. Outside there are native birds, a Great Horned owl and Red-tailed Hawks.

The 235-acre nature center also houses seven interpretive gardens, including a pizza garden, growing necessary ingredients and perhaps sparking some ideas.

"The funds are low and we're trying to figure out what to do without spending any money and we went to Lincoln Park Zoo, had an exciting time over there and we decided to come over here," said Deborah Maxwell, of Lansing.

With four miles of self-guided trails that wind through several different eco-systems, you never know what you might find. During our interview, we noticed a native visitor trying steal some airtime -- a preying mantis looking for his fifteen minutes of fame.

Leaders hope more families will consider exploring nature this summer. At the Sand Ridge Nature Center, you can do it for free.

"I've always said that once people come here and discover us, they'll be back but it's a constant battle trying to get people to discover us and venture in here for that first time," said Jim Carpenter, director, Sand Ridge Nature Center.

The Sand Ridge Nature Center offers a summer camp and a number of family programs, including guided nature hikes and camping expeditions. For more information, visit

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