Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground is designed to engage children in active and passive play in a natural setting. This unique custom-designed play area includes natural materials (logs, boulders, sand, water, etc.) as well as nature-themed play structures and manufactured features that mimic a rock bluff and cliff face, fallen logs, a flowing stream, wetland, beaver lodge, etc. A visit to the playground will inspire active, open-ended, creative forms of play, similar to that enjoyed by previous generations of children who grew up wandering fields, forests, and streams near their homes. The goal is to inspire today’s youth to remain active, develop agility, learn resilience, discover the benefits of cooperation and experimentation, solve problems and learn to navigate the world around them confidently.
In addition to Bison’s Bluff, Spring Valley includes the Vera Meineke Nature Center, Volkening Heritage Farm Museum, and more than 3 miles of nature trails. The Nature Play Discovery Trail leads to small themed ‘play pockets’ that provide opportunities for nature play in more secluded settings.
Pathway stones are available for purchase at the entrance of Bison's Bluff. To purchase a pathway stone, please complete an order form.
In addition to Bison’s Bluff, Spring Valley includes the Vera Meineke Nature Center, Volkening Heritage Farm, and more than 3 miles of walking paths.
Please be aware that the following are NOT PERMITTED within the play area and anywhere on Spring Valley’s trails:
- Bikes, scooters, and skateboards
- Glass containers
- Consumption of alcohol
- Picking or collecting plants, flowers, berries, etc.
Please help your children to observe the following common-sense safety rules within the nature playground:
- Water features are NOT designed for swimming or drinking – water is NOT potable!
- Closely watch smaller children playing near stream and climbing features.
- Do NOT throw stones, sand, or sticks.
- Do NOT climb up onto rocks above waterfall.
- Do NOT bring water toys, squirt guns, balls, etc. into nature playground.
Snacks and beverages are permitted within the play area HOWEVER, in consideration of others and to reduce trash and litter within play area, please use designated picnic area next to the parking lot for larger gatherings, parties, and picnic meals! NOTE: A picnic shelter located nearby may be rented for private parties and groups. Call in advance to reserve this space.
What are the hours the play area will be open?
- April – October, Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (Monday hours, Noon-8 p.m.)
- November-March, Daily, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (weather permitting)
Where should I park when visiting Bison's Bluff?
The Nature Center Parking lot at 1111 E. Schaumburg Road has sufficient parking available on all but the busiest days. When this lot fills, alternative parking is available 1/4 miles west at St. Matthew's Catholic Church. Please follow signs to designated parking areas and be respectful of church property when parking here.
Is there a fee to use the play area?
Use of the nature playground is generally free to walk-in visitors. Due to the impact of large organized youth groups on busy days, organized groups of 10 or more are asked to pay a modest fee for use of the nature playground. Fees are $3/child for groups making reservations at least 2 weeks in advance; or $4/child for groups without reservations. Please be aware that groups without reservations may have to wait to enter the play area on busy days when the site is at capacity. Admission fees may be required for ALL visitors during certain scheduled special events.
Are there any restrictions on use?
Mostly, children will be restricted only by their imaginations and abilities! Parents and caregivers MUST supervise and be attentive to children at all times, while letting them play freely. For everyone’s safety, please insure that children abide by the rules listed on the previous page.
May groups reserve space in the play area or schedule a group visit?
Please see notes on fees for organized youth groups above. Organized youth groups may make a reservation to spend time at Bison’s Bluff; however, reservations do not convey exclusive use. The nature playground is always open to the public. In order to avoid overcrowding of the site, reservations are highly recommended.
What is a nature playground and how is it different from a typical park playground?
Many of the play elements (climbing features, slides, physical spaces) are either constructed entirely of natural materials or are constructed to mimic natural features such as logs, boulders, a flowing stream, etc.
A nature play area is designed and landscaped to more closely resemble a natural area.
Play features are often designed in such a way that their function is more open-ended, i.e., they can be used in many different ways, dependent on the imagination of the child.
What features are available at Bison’s Bluff?
- A bluff designed to resemble a natural rock outcrop which features a large bison and slides leading to the base of the bluff.
- Climbing structures and towers resembling a multi-tiered tree house.
- A meandering shallow stream fed by a waterfall with log crossings to encourage agility and balance.
- A re-created shallow wetland traversed by stepping stones.
- A beaver lodge children can crawl into and help to build.
Artistic area where children create with mud and sand or weave with natural materials.
- Musical area for creating sounds with wood and metal percussion instruments.
- Hidden nooks for hiding and sitting quietly.
- Benches, logs, and boulders for sitting.
- Sand and water play area.
Rocks and minerals exploration area.
- Soft, resilient surfaces beneath climbing structures to protect active little bodies.
- Winding pathways leading through the site and to each of the features.
- Informational signs to help guide children and parents to make the best use of natural play opportunities.
What are the benefits of nature play versus other types of active play?
Nature play areas provide opportunities for open-ended, creative, free play in a natural setting. Many adults can recall playing in streams, building forts, climbing trees, etc. from their own childhood. These opportunities are unavailable or extremely limited for most children today due to over-scheduled lives, technology, and parental concerns about the safety of un-supervised play.
Studies show that children benefit physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally from imaginative play in natural settings.
Studies show that children who spend play time in natural areas are more likely to appreciate nature and develop curiosity about nature.
Are the pathway stones available for purchase?
Pathway stones, available in a variety of sizes, are permanently engraved with personalized messages and are available for purchase. The bricks are placed at the entrance of Bison's Bluff and is a special opportunity to give someone permanent recognition or commemorate a significant event. To purchase a pathway stone, please complete an order form.
For more information, please call (847) 985-2100 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m