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The rules below are to protect plants, animals, and native habitats found in the Chicago Park District.

Leave nature as you find it for others to enjoy, and help us keep wildlife wild, safe, and healthy.

If you encounter someone violating the Chicago Park District rules or regulations in Natural Areas, please contact Chicago Park District Security at 312-747-2193. For emergencies, call 911.

For additional rules pursuant to all Chicago Park District parks and facilities, see the Chicago Park District Code.


Natural Areas are open from dawn to dusk.

Pets are not allowed within Natural Areas. Birds and other animals see dogs and cats (even small or friendly ones) as predators. Aside from directly impacting wildlife from barking at, chasing, or killing wild animals, studies have shown that the presence of a dog, even if it is well-behaved and on a short leash, can alter wildlife behavior more than a human walking through the same space alone. They may run or fly away, stop feeding, or even be deterred from entering areas where dogs have left their mark. And, people see more wildlife in areas where dogs are not allowed. Leashed pets are welcome in most areas of the parks, other than beaches and Natural Areas. Visit the dog-friendly areas page to find a park that permits off-leash dogs.

Stay on paths and trails and do not enter fenced-off areas. Avoid using wet trails–if you leave footprints, you are damaging the trail. You can also reduce your likelihood of encountering ticks by staying on trails.

No collecting, hunting, trapping, removal, or damage to plants, animals, or other park features is permitted. This includes, but is not limited to individual organisms, wood, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, fungi, and inorganic material. Fishing in designated areas, with annual compliance with state licensing requirements, is permitted (see Fishing Areas for more information). For scientific research projects that propose monitoring or collection, see the Research Permit page.

For the protection of animals and visitors alike, feeding wildlife is prohibited. There are many reasons for this. Certain types of food can be harmful to different types of animals. Animals that are habituated to humans are more vulnerable to harm and may react unpredictably, such as by biting or scratching. Young animals that learn to rely on human food may not be able to feed themselves effectively when older. When people feed animals, animals often gather in unusual concentrations and are at higher risk of spreading diseases to each other, as well as to humans and pets. Urban raccoons, for example, are at high risk for rabies and roundworm, which can spread to humans, as well as distemper and parvovirus, which can spread to dogs. The best ways to support local wildlife are advocating for conservation and research, as well as volunteering to expand and improve native habitats by planting native plants and removing invasive species.

Motorized vehicle use, bicycling, skating, skateboarding, or use of any other recreational pedestrian conveyance devices are not allowed within Natural Areas. Mobility devices used by individuals with physical limitations are welcome.

Fires are not allowed in Natural Areas. Grilling is allowed only in designated areas. Please use dedicated red “used-coal” receptacles and do not dump coals on the ground or at the foot of trees. This will damage or kill trees and may start wildfires. For information about the Chicago Park District’s prescribed burn program, see Prescribed Burn FAQs.

Swimming and wading are not permitted in Natural Areas. For a list of permitted swimming locations, see Beaches.

Fishing in designated areas, with annual compliance with state requirements, is permitted. Please fish from hard surfaces and do not stand on vegetation. Standing at the shoreline edge causes damage to native habitat and causes erosion. Learn more about fishing in the parks at Fishing Areas.

Smoking (including e-cigarettes) is not permitted on Chicago Park District property. Alcohol is not allowed except as part of a permitted event or if purchased from licensed Chicago Park District concessions/vendors.

Pack in, pack out. Help keep the parks clean by using designated trash and recycling bins. If a bin is overflowing, contact the Park Supervisor listed on the Chicago Park District webpage for each park.

Some outdoor activities and events require a permit. For example, certain types of photography and videography, events with 50 or more people, amplified sound, tents, and stages require a permit. For a more detailed list and information on how to apply, see Do I need a permit?