Finding Health and Wellness

Kickapoo Woods is an ideal natural place to explore health and wellness in the savanna, meadow, water, or along the river bank. A walk in the woods can improve mental health, reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, enhance immune system function, and increase self-esteem among other advantages. An increasing number of studies show that regular encounters with nature are good for human health. The results of a study by the University of Exeter, published in Yale University’s Environment 360 online magazine published in January 2020, reports that these benefits can be realized in 120 minutes a week. The benefits were equal across populations regardless of occupation, ethnicity, economic wherewithal, and even people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

Kickapoo Woods, and the one-mile stretch of the Little Calumet River that meanders alongside it, is also part of a larger historic, industrial, residential, and natural area known as the Calumet Region. Stretching from South Chicago to Gary, Indiana, the Calumet Region is home to vibrant communities, industries, drawbridges, and crucial wetland, oak savanna, and prairie habitat.

The magnificence of the Calumet Region and the beauty of Kickapoo Woods spans centuries. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the area was home to Native American tribes. “The Calumet region has long served as a home for tribes belonging to Algonquin groups around the Great Lakes. The primary inhabitants of the region were the Miami and Potawatomi, while nearby tribal groups that whose range did not include the Calumet region instead interacted with resident groups through trading or during the course of migration,” according to Native Americans of the Calumet Region by Byg, Garner, Gordon, Parts, and Weiner.

Explore a Deep Listening Integrated with Native Practices

In partnership with the American Indian Center and the Fifth House Ensemble, Friends of the Chicago River has workshops and performances that use Deep Listening as a tool for observation and increased awareness of our environment, integrated with Native practices that explore the interconnectedness of humans, wildlife, plants, and place. The workshops are available on our YouTube channel.  The workshops and performances, entitled Sounds of the Chicago River, integrate modern and indigenous Deep Listening activities with Native conservation practices, music-making, and storytelling. Fifth House Ensemble member Sixto Franco explained that the series of workshops and performances includes a look at how nature inspires music and art, and how the sounds of nature are being more integrated into new compositions. “In these workshops we… investigative these [nature and artistic] concepts in a more personal way,” said Franco. “How a healthy relationship between urbanism, a city, and the nature around it, should sound like.”

The performances are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, in partnership with Fifth House Ensemble and the American Indian Center.

At Kickapoo Woods there are lots of ways to get well and have fun. People can:

  1. Launch a canoe in the Little Calumet River to explore Kickapoo Woods from the water. It’s a good location for beginning paddlers.
  2. Bike, or walk the one-mile looped trail on your own or with your dog, friends, or family
  3. Bird and animal watch
  4. Watch model airplanes zipping around the sky at the model airplane flying field, or join the fun with your own model airplane.  
  5. Picnic
  6. Volunteer to restore the site with Centennial Volunteers. You can help remove invasive species that threaten to crowd out native plants and the wildlife in this beautiful prairie ecosystem. Trained leaders show you how to identify plants that don’t belong and demonstrate how to safely use hand tools to remove them.