Hikers, campers, picnickers and canoeists frequent Gebhard Woods State Park, making the 30-acre site one of Illinois’ most popular state parks. Located in Morris, this picturesque park is bordered on the south by the Illinois & Michigan Canal and to the north by Nettle Creek, which gently flows along the perimeter and through the park, adding to its natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. Stately old trees including walnut, oak, ash, maple, sycamore, hawthorn and cottonwood provide ample shade throughout the park. In the spring, trillium, bluebell, white trout lily, violets, wild ginger, phlox, toothwort and spring beauties are just a sample of the wildflowers that can be enjoyed by park visitors.
Gebhard Woods provides rustic beauty with five shady picnic areas. These areas are complete with picnic tables and grills. A large shelter with electrical service, water fountain and restrooms nicely located near the playground area is available for reservations to host that special outdoor occasion. A slightly smaller shelter near the front of the park, complete with electricity and nearby drinking fountain and restroom, is available on a first-come, first-served basis. If time allows, join in a baseball game on the diamond, while the smaller children enjoy the playground area. Horseshoe pits also are available near the large shelter.
Only primitive tent camping is available and gear must be walked (1/3 mile) to the campsite (no vehicular access). Fire rings, picnic tables and grills are located in the camping area. A drinking fountain and pit toilets are located within a short distance. A camping permit must be obtained from the information center.
Three fishing ponds are available in the park. Bring your fishing gear and try your skill at catching bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish and bullhead. These small ponds provide a great place for the entire family to enjoy a relaxing day casting away the hours. Fishing also is available in the Illinois & Michigan Canal and Nettle Creek.
Gebhard Woods is a footbridge away from the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail. This 61 mile trail on the old canal towpath is easy walking and gives access to unparalleled scenic and historic sights. Bicyclists also can take advantage of the groomed towpath to enjoy the natural and manmade wonders. The trail is marked and has various wayside exhibits that describe canal era features encountered along the way. Due to the trail's composition, horseback riding isn't allowed. After a minimum of 4 inches of snowfall, snowmobilers may travel the marked trail available along the canal. Cross country skiing also is permitted on the trail.
Canoeists can travel 15 miles of the canal in open water between Channahon State Park and Gebhard Woods. Paddlers can spend the day enjoying the natural beauty and abundant wildlife as they float between these two parks. The Aux Sable access area, located between Channahon State Park and Gebhard Woods, is home to an original locktender's house, Aux Sable aqueduct and canal Lock #8, a perfect place to land the canoe and have a picnic lunch. Small fishing boats with electric motors are allowed in the vanal. Gas powered motors are prohibited due to the canal's shallow depth and fragile embankments.