At the corner of Algonquin Road (IL-62) and Harrison, nestled against the Fox River just below the dam, is a tiny park. Part playground, part garden and part history lesson, this park pays tribute to Algonquin's past while celebrating the children who make up the future.
The formal entry to the park is made by passing between a pair of rectangular pools boasting five fountains in each. Once past the cool moisture, a visitor passes through an elegant brick arch, topped with a clock tower. Look downriver and you'll see a foot bridge, a gazebo, a playground and loads of wildflowers inviting you to follow the walking path around the park.
The foot bridge spans a stream branching off from the Fox River. Watch out for fishermen near the point where the stream leaves the river! Make your way toward the river and enjoy the view. Don't forget to read the markers along the way describing the role of the river in the community's history,
The crossing for the Fox River at Algonquin was just about one day's journey by wagon for people heading west from Chicago. This made it a natural place for a ferry to be operated, prior to construction of the first bridge. With a ferry and a hotel on the west bank of the river, the town was poised for growth.
Water power was harnessed for a saw mill and a grist mill over the years. A dam was built to help power the grist mill. Construction of the dam also helped create a boating industry upriver.
No, that isn't Nessie cavorting upstream of the dam — it's a group of floats suspended there. Look carefully and you'll see evidence of a vital boating community — both sales and support businesses thrive along the Fox River. The span you see crossing above the dam is the highway bridge on Algonquin Road.
Walk along the river path and enjoy the wildflowers blooming all around. The area is a reminder of what the prairies must have been like before so many acres were lost to development.
Getting a close look at the wide variety of flowers is a joy. The colors, shapes and textures are a delight for the senses.
Don't walk too quickly as you follow the path along the river. Look across the river and see if you can spot any wildlife there. You may find you aren't alone on your excursion.
As you turn away from the river, don't miss the Janak Store, a false front honoring one of the area's early businesses. The store sold carriages and farm implements. Now the replica of the storefront conceals the park's restrooms. They are located just steps away the playground.
Look back toward Algonquin Road and take one last look at the arch before you leave. Enjoy another perspective of the clock tower and fountains.
The park is a lovely oasis of past and present sitting at the edge of a major highway and important waterway. It is a treat to visit.
© 2007 Mary Beth Magee