The Lily Pool is open seasonally from mid-April through mid-November. It is also closed the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the Air and Water Show.
The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is a 3.14-acre natural area located along the southernmost edge of Lincoln Park Zoo. Originally built in 1889 for raising tropical water lilies, the Lily Pool was redesigned in the prairie style by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell in the 1930s. Caldwell’s design is a tribute to the natural ecology of the Midwest. It is meant to mimic a river formed by a melting glacier’s flow of water as it cuts through rock. The stonework and paths have a natural look reminiscent of limestone bluffs, and a waterfall near the north end of the Lily Pool represents the source of this glacial river.
In 2001, Chicago Park District partnered with Friends of Lincoln Park to begin restoring the Lily Pool’s historic landscape, which had fallen into disrepair after years of little to no active management. This process involved the replacement of invasive trees and shrubs with native plants, including prairie and woodland wildflowers. In addition to landscape enhancements, the restoration effort included the installation of accessible ramps and pathways as well as the rehabilitation of the pavilion, council ring, pathways, and the waterfall.
Today, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is a haven for wildlife, providing food, water, and shelter for many species of birds, dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, and turtles. And it is especially popular with birders because it provides ideal viewing opportunities from pathways above the water. Volunteers help maintain the Lily Pool’s native habitat through monthly community stewardship workdays, hosted in partnership with The Lincoln Park Conservancy Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting our Community Stewardship Program page.