This 65-acre site at the big bend of the Fox River is rich in natural and cultural history. An oak tree at Tekakwitha dates to 1864 and links us to its ancestors’ past on the edge of the prairie. On the lee side of the Fox River, the area now known as Tekakwitha Woods was protected from the heat of the prairie fires and was likely forested for thousands of years. Today, the natural features of Tekakwitha Woods include an oak-maple forest on the uplands, floodplain forest along the river, and restored prairie in former farm fields.
In the early 1900s, Father Hugh McGuire of St. James Parish in Chicago purchased a plot of land in the countryside, now Saint Charles. Before he passed away, he bequeathed the land to the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters owned and managed the property for eight decades, using it as a spiritual retreat center and a place to minister to people in need.
The Forest Preserve District purchased the land from the religious order in 1992. The Sisters requested that the site be named in honor of 17th century Mohawk Indian Kateri Tekakwitha, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012.
A network of foot trails winds through the fields and forested ravines of the preserve. In spring, the forest floor is carpeted with wildflowers and the trees are filled with birds. In summer, the wooded trails provide cool shade and enjoyable wildlife viewing. The autumn foliage is spectacular in the woods and on the prairie. Winter brings a stark beauty of its own and snowfall provides excellent wildlife tracking.
The Fox River Trail runs along the eastern boundary of the forest preserve, along the former Elgin-Aurora trolley line. Walking trails include grass footpaths and handicap-accessible asphalt trails.