Ask a local park ranger about the Swallow Cliff Woods of Sag Valley and they’re likely to spout three words: “fire and ice.” Like most of the Upper Midwest, this area was carved by glaciers and the meltwater they left behind 12,000 years ago, most notably the 100-foot Swallow “Cliff” just south of Cal Sag Road. The fire came later, as Native Americans used controlled burns to corral wildlife and clear land for planting. Today, these quiet savannas, woodlands, and marshes are nestled within the 15,000- acre Palos and Sag Valley Forest Preserves, a giant swath of wilderness just west of Chicago. Famous for its silent, sprawling woodlands and savannas shaped by the elements, these forests were also home to Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in 2005’s The Lake House. The 8.1-mile Yellow Trail circles around the bluffs and ravines of Sag Valley and past a series of old toboggan slides that were once used to train Olympic ski jumpers in the 1930s.
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