Frankly My Dear, I Don't Give A Dam No. 4

I've driven by these woods for years, and now it was time to explore them.

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If this weekend is still not quite the peak for fall colors in the Chicago suburbs, we’re certainly getting close, as oranges and reds are bursting on lawns and in forest preserves in every neighborhood. Get out there before they’re gone!

Where To Go

Dam No. 4 Woods - East | Park Ridge

We continued our exploration of stops along the seemingly endless Des Plaines River Trail with this week’s excursion to the boringly named Dam No. 4 Woods - East. On the upside, the name is perfect for sprinkling “dam” puns throughout this newsletter. You’ve been warned.

I have driven along this stretch of forest preserve hundreds of times throughout my childhood and adult life, and never had a reason to stop in and see why I should actually give a dam about them. It turns out that there is lots of intrigue associated with this location.

First of all, let’s get back to that boring name. According to this very recent Chicago Tribune story there have been ongoing and expensive statewide efforts to remove dams from several parts of the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers, both for environmental reasons and because of the safety hazards they pose to fishermen, boaters, children and others looking for a dam good time. There is rather damming evidence that these dams are not actually serving any purpose and can be safely removed without causing flooding problems or any other issues. I cannot confirm (and the Trib didn’t let on) if Dam No. 4 is already a thing of the past, but I did not see any dams when I visited the woods this week. As a first-timer, however, I also wouldn’t have known where to look for it.

The biggest question now is if they have already begun the search for a new name. I hope they settle on something equally compelling like “Tree Woods - East” or “Bike Trail Woods - East” or maybe even “Wooded Path By River Woods - East,” if they want to get really flowery about it.

The second secret of these woods is a secret path that is so new even Google Maps doesn’t know about it.



It turns out that what was once a drivable, paved path from the Dee Road entrance through the woods and out to Devon Avenue is slowly being converted into a beautiful walking path with baby trees and multiple locations for accessing the Des Plaines River during your walk. (We had to stop for my kids to throw rocks in the water somewhere.)

Discovering this path on our second visit today was a huge blessing, as we had previously braved a walk on the stretch of bike trail that runs through this area. While the woods there are also beautiful—including a bridge under Devon Avenue that the kids really got a kick out of—we were constantly fearing for our children’s lives as bikers rushed all around us.

This might just be the cranky Dad in me talking, but have you noticed that kids these days don’t have to pedal anymore to propel themselves? We were constantly being buzzed by motorized vehicles of varying shapes and sizes, including one young man who came flying around a corner with music blaring from his phone while riding some sort of futuristic electric unicycle scooter. He had to be going at least 15 miles per hour. It was just too dam fast. (OK, I’m done.)

At any rate, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here and I feel like we had a true Fall Colors Experience™. There were tons of leaves on the ground, but also still lots on the trees, so it’s probably got at least a week or so of quality autumn splendor left if you want to go check it out for yourself.

Tips from Dad

  • Watch your back. Kids or not, it is really easy for walkers to be in the way on the Des Plaines River Trail bike path. When the weather is nice, traffic is heavy, so either ride your own bike and join the fray, or be prepared to be looking behind you frequently.

  • Bring a camera or hire a photographer. At least right now, the unpaved trail mentioned above has a bunch of exquisite spots for family portraits, indie album covers, or that perfect Instagram selfie if you’re looking for a colorful, woodsy background. There are big stumps to stand on, logs that fit the whole family, and centuries-old trees to hug.

  • Become a unicyclist speed demon. If you want to terrorize others with your tunes and your speed on a bike trail, click here to get your own electric unicycle. (This is an affiliate link, so if you do buy one, I get a commission. Dad’s gotta eat.)

Top 10 Places to See Fall Colors Right Now

With a once-a-week newsletter, it won’t be possible for me to hit all the best spots for fall colors this year, so I did a little crowdsourcing and came up with the recommendations below. Let me know if you have more suggestions not listed!

  1. Linne Woods
    Read last week’s newsletter for more info. I recently returned here and can confirm that fall is happening in full!

  2. Glenview Woods

  3. Fort Sheridan (future newsletter review coming soon!)

  4. East River Road

  5. Des Plaines River Trail Between Beck Lake and River Trail Nature Center

  6. Starved Rock (been here many times…so beautiful!)

  7. Wright College Campus

  8. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve (see previous newsletter)

  9. Northwestern University Evanston campus

  10. Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area

Looking beyond the fall, what are your plans for making it through the horrid COVID winter? Leave a comment or drop me a line at and let me know! Thanks for reading and use the button below to share this newsletter with others who might like to read it!