Funks Grove, Illinois
Funks Grove is a historic unincorporated community on U.S. Route 66 in McLean County, Illinois, United States southwest of Bloomington. The grove for which the settlement is named, Funk's Grove, is a National Natural Landmark.
Illinois's Grand Prairie is spotted with groves, small patches of land where local terrain conditions discouraged prairie fires and allowed trees to reach maturity. One of these spots is the lower drainage of Timber Creek, a prairie rivulet that forms a tributary of Sugar Creek. All of these creeks eventually form part of the Sangamon River drainage of the Illinois River.
The banks of Timber Creek, in early historic times, were thickly forested with white oaks, bur oaks, and sugar maple trees. The white oak became the state tree of Illinois, while the sugar maples were used by local Illini Native Americans to make springtime maple syrup and maple sugar.
Maple sweetening was highly prized among early Euro-American settlers, and as early as 1824 Isaac Funk settled here. The Funk family began to sell sirup commercially in 1891, and the family continues to control and harvest much of the grove as of 2008[update].
Funks Grove today
An 18.6-acre (7.53 ha) parcel within the largely privately owned grove was dedicated by the state of Illinois in 1985 as the Funk's Grove Nature Preserve.
Funks Grove continues to be a favorite landmark for users of historic U.S. Route 66, which is signed in McLean County as it passes through the grove. In addition, a rest stop lies on the edge of the grove on Interstate 55 at Illinois Milepost 149. The rest stop contains some memorabilia of the grove.
Sugar Grove Nature Center
Sugar Grove Nature Center opened in October 2004 and is run by a non-profit organization. It features interpretive environmental exhibits, sensory displays, live animals and a wildlife viewing area. The center offers guided walks, after school workshops, family programs and programs for schools, preschools, homeschoolers and other groups.