Discovering Dragonflies at Crooked Creek

Traversing through the Palos Preserves of southwest Cook County – the largest concentration of preserved land in the Forest Preserves – is beautiful Crooked Creek. A winding tributary to the Cal-Sag Channel, which is a part of the Chicago River system, Crooked Creek and the surrounding land are fertile habitat for dragonflies and damselflies, including the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly. It is also home to many fish species including largemouth bass, bluegill, and pumpkinseed.

This month’s installment of Inside, Out & About delves into the wonder of Crook Creek and explores the Palos-Sag Valley where ice-age glaciers sculpted the landscape between the Des Plaines River Valley and the Sag Valley. The Palos region is home to almost 100 lakes, bogs, and sloughs nestled within hilly woodlands. The Palos Preserves is also bountiful in oak woodlands, oak savanna, emergent wetlands, and sedge meadows. Thanks to more than three decades of habitat restoration, they also hold some of the highest-quality natural areas in the Cook County.

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In a companion podcast, Friends’ Executive Director Margaret Frisbie interviews Marla Garrison, a renowned dragonfly and damselfly expert, who brings dragonflies to life. Dragonflies can fly forwards, backwards, up and down, and hover and, as expert predators, they can pinpoint insects an 1/8 of a mile away and catch them. They also have extraordinary vision, seeing color in ways that we cannot even imagine. In the Crooked Creek sub watershed, the rare remaining sheet flow of water over dolomite bedrock and seeps that bring water to the surface provides some of the last remaining habitat for the individually interesting Hine’s emerald dragonfly. Garrison is a faculty member at McHenry County College and the author of “Damselflies of Chicagoland, A Photo Field Guide.” 

The Crooked Creek podcast is broken into two episodes and the second one will feature Greta Kringle, a chemistry and environmental science teacher who participates in Friends’ Chicago River Schools Network. Kringle was Friends' Educator of the Year in 2019.