Summer 2007

Nature Areas

Lincoln Park Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is located south of Fullerton Avenue, directly north of the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is a north entrance on Fullerton Avenue and a handicapped accessible entrance on the east side off the Cannon Drive parking lot.
(click here for map)

Originally built in 1889 for raising tropical water lilies, the Lily Pool was redesigned in the prairie style during the 1930’s by Alfred Caldwell. The landscape design of the Caldwell Lily Pool is a tribute to the natural ecology of the Midwest. It was originally designed to mimic a river formed by a melting glacier’s flow of water cutting through limestone. The stonework and paths have a natural look that conveys the interpretation that melted glacial water flows are cutting through moraines, creating dramatic limestone bluffs. A waterfall near the north end of the lily pool represents the source of this glacial river.

In 2001, the Chicago Park District partnered with Friends of Lincoln Park to begin rehabilitation of this historic landscape, which has been transformed from a dark, overgrown, eroding, and neglected area, into a botanically diverse, thriving, sanctuary for people and wildlife. Landscape rehabilitation efforts included the replacement of non-native, invasive trees and shrubs with bird-friendly native plants including the planting of thousands of native prairie and woodland wildflowers. In addition to landscape improvements, the project also includes: the addition of accessible ramps and pathways: rehabilitation of Fullerton entrance gate, pavilion, and council ring; sediment dredging from the pool; and extensive rehabilitation of stone pathways, stonewalls, and the stone waterfall. The one and a half acre pool now sits in the sunlight and supports water lilies and other aquatic plants.

Stone paths are reminiscent of a hike through the woods. Visitors will feel like they are hiking through a woodland with a sunny understory, where native plants such as oak, hackberry, hawthorn, and serviceberry thrive.

With these new improvements, lily pool landscape is again becoming a haven for wildlife, providing food, water, and shelter for many species of birds, dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, and turtles. The lily pool is especially popular with many Chicago birders because it provides ideal viewing opportunities from path areas above the pool. Construction is expected to be complete in the fall 2001, and the Alfred Caldwell lily pool has been reopened to the public this Spring 2002.

Chicago Park District
Department of Natural Resources
February 2002