Natural Areas

Sizeable landscape elements surround the managed gardens and provide a rest for the eyes with their more subtle colors and features. Native aquatic plants are showcased around the edges of Gold Pond, and Prairie View, near the Idea Garden, offers native wildflowers amid grasses, small wetland areas, and maturing trees—a snapshot reminder of what Illinois used to be. Pathways enable close study of both areas. Our natural sections play a key role in Cantigny’s designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

Butterfly Hill

The highest point on Cantigny’s 500 acres didn’t exist before 2017 — Butterfly Hill arose from displaced soil from construction areas around the park during Project New Leaf. Instead of hauling the soil off site, project planners decided to create a panoramic overlook at the south end of the Oak Colonnade. For the first time, park visitors could see Cantigny Golf and the giant butterfly-shaped flower bed for which the hill is named. Native grasses and sedges blanket the hill, along with plant material enjoyed by pollinators like bees and, of course, butterflies.

Gold Pond

More than 12,000 native aquatic plants, including sedges and rushes, line the edge of this functional waterscape, which cleans and regulates stormwater leaving the property. A boardwalk and gazebo are featured along the quarter-mile pathway of crushed stone, and steps invite visitors to explore the water’s edge. A large staircase and access ramp connect Gold Pond with the upper display gardens.


Prairie View

An expanse of Illinois prairie grasses and wetland areas are framed by native trees, styled after the work Jens Jensen, a principal contributor to the “Prairie School” of landscape architecture in the early 20th century. This native landscape restoration area features pre-settlement regional plant communities that typified this part of the American Prairie. Benches under a wooden trellis offer a tranquil resting spot and panoramic view looking east. The central spine of the vista consists of short prairie grasses and ephemeral wildflowers. An open lawn with a stone seat wall is a popular site for wedding ceremonies and other special events.