Indian Road Woods
It is a moonlit night and you are enjoying a beer on the lakefront. Suddenly, you see flashing blue lights and hear the garbled orders from a megaphone. “There are no alcoholic beverages allowed in the parks!” You are well over twenty-one, not drunk, and walked to your destination. Still, the police officer assures you that he is doing you a favor as you pour your beer onto the sidewalk. “Next time I will have to take you down to the station,” he says. Yes, Prohibition put an end to drinking in Chicago’s parks, and the Daley Administration has given the law even sharper teeth. But it is still perfectly legal to drink in the Cook County Forest Preserves. Patterned after the “emerald necklace” of forest that surrounds Vienna, the city’s German population long insisted upon wooded “beer gardens.” In fact, the three-day “Lager Riots” of the 1850’s were partially fueled by the insistence on having large, public areas to drink beer. Today, most of the drinking in the preserves is done by fools drinking Budweiser and blasting AC/DC ten feet from the parking lot. But walk a hundred yards in and you may soon find yourself in a world of secluded splendor. There are many places to do this, but one of the best is in Indian Road Woods. Located on the far Northwest Side, off Central Avenue just South of Devon, it is not only on the North Branch of the Chicago River, but right near a natural rock dam. On cool days you can sit on a log and hear the sound of running water and watch ducks, deer and even an occasional Great Blue Heron as you consume a few German lagers. Plus, you never have to worry about hiding containers, making too much noise, or disturbing the neighbors. After you enjoy the city’s largest outdoor bar, preserve these beautiful vistas for both humans and wildlife by not leaving a single can, bottle or cigarette butt behind.
Best of Chicago 2002