New overlook in Moraine Hills State Park gives hikers chance to spot osprey

McHENRY – Moraine Hills State Park visitors have a new scenic spot in McHenry to try to catch a glimpse of ospreys with the recent completion of an overlook providing a view of a nest; and it may not be too late in the fall to spot one of the birds of prey.

While most ospreys normally are heading to or arriving in southern destinations for the winter by now, one of the raptors was spotted Oct. 8 while leaders of groups that funded the project gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"Crazy enough, there was an osprey there the day we did the dedication," said Stacy Iwanicki, a natural resources education coordinator for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Iwanicki said that it was McHenry County Audubon member Lisa Maier who first spotted the osprey through binoculars.

"Several of us got our binoculars on it, and there it was, an osprey for us," Iwanicki said. "Leave it to Lisa Maier to spot that bird."

The overlook can be accessed by driving a little more than halfway through the park on Main Park Road, Iwanicki said. Parking is available near an outhouse at Oak Opening.

From there, visitors can walk up a hill on a trail, and there is a juncture within a minute's walk with signs directing hikers to the scenic overlook.

The overlook cost $40,000 to construct, with work starting in the spring this year, and it was funded by the Community Foundation for McHenry County, McHenry County Audubon Society and Friends of Moraine Hills State Park, as well as private donations, Iwanicki said.

Some of the stone material used in the project was salvaged from the Big Hollow school building in Ingleside that was torn down in 2011, Iwanicki said.

The area features three interpretive panels, designed by Blueraven Creative, displaying information about the park's geography, the natural history of the osprey including the birds in the park, and the different parties that support the state park, Iwanicki said.

"The Osprey Meadows Interpretive Overlook is a great gift to the community during this time of social distancing, when getting outside to enjoy nature is one of the few activities we can safely partake in," said Lyndsey Thompson, director of program services for the community foundation.

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