North Pond Nature Sanctuary

A new and improved version of this page is live! Click the button below to find more up-to-date information about the North Pond Restoration.


We have developed an innovative plan to revitalize the North Pond Nature Sanctuary and re-envision the 36-acres surrounding it. The pond is over 130 years old and time has taken its toll; it needs help to stay healthy and survive for the next 100 years.

Our goal is to ensure this important sanctuary remains a natural, healthy place for both people and wildlife for generations to come.

Our top three objectives are to:

  1. Restore North Pond to a healthy, revitalized pond that establishes a self-sustaining ecosystem with restored shorelines, and natural depths that provide greater aquatic habitat while eliminating algae blooms.
  2. Create a Natural Playscape for children that will replace the existing Sunshine Playlot.
  3. Add two new destination spots to spread out the hundreds of thousands of people who visit North Pond annually. An expansion of the West Prairie, effectively doubling it in size, will provide increased habitat for local animals, but also an immersive visitor experience with more potential for volunteer opportunities.  By creating new nature spots that are as interesting and charming as the pond itself, we permanently reduce stress on the pond’s shoreline, which is being loved to death.

Tiered Sedge Meadow & North Lawn

A functional destination spot, to be located on the north side of North Pond, includes a native sedge meadow critical to the ongoing health of the pond. Native sedges will naturally filter both city and stormwater to healthfully replenish the Pond. Each year millions of gallons of potable city water are added to maintain pond depth and temperature. As fresh water becomes more valuable on our planet, we must find ways to ensure North Pond Nature Sanctuary is sustainable. This lovely feature is the first step to making that a reality. It also has wonderful side benefits: connecting the north and south sections of the park, opening up views across the pond, and improving open space at the park’s north end for all the  activities people love such as picnics, soccer, frisbee, sunbathing, and playing with your children and dogs. Vehicular guardrails and other safety features will be added along the nearby roads to ensure a safe play environment.

A New Natural Playscape

This new concept in outdoor play is sure to engage children of all ages and abilities in a safe, fun environment. To be located on a pretty, tree-lined opening north of Mt. Prospect (aka: the sledding hill), and replacing the existing Sunshine Playlot, the Sunshine Playscape will blend traditional equipment such as swings and sandboxes with new natural features such as hillside slides and discovery activities. Certain features, like willow tunnels, will be changed every few years, to provide frequent visitors with the opportunity to make fresh discoveries. Studies increasingly illustrate the importance of regular exposure to outdoor nature settings, which can benefit children in many ways: reduce ADHD symptoms, increase testing scores, improve critical thinking, and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s not bad for parents and grandparents either!

Deepening the Pond and Shoreline Restoration

Being 130 years old isn’t easy for a pond. Today, the North Pond is only about 3.5 feet at its deepest, and that is just at a small area in the center. Most areas are about knee or ankle-high, and it continues to fill with sediment and algae. This is not a hospitable environment for aquatic wildlife (an important part of the food web). If left unattended, the pond would eventually become a mosquito-infested marsh. By deepening the pond, with a proposed long-term maintenance plan, we can ensure the health of the Pond and its inhabitants for generations. The Chicago Park District recognized the importance of North Pond in 1999, attempting to fight the same ecological challenges we are facing today by putting $1.5 million toward improving water health and planting native shoreline plants. Unfortunately, that did not address the deeper causes to the deterioration of the site, which is why our project is necessary today. Our Concept Plan is much larger in scale, and includes a dredge of the pond, which is critical to the pond’s survival.

To learn more about the Campaign for North Pond, and to find out how you can contribute, please follow the button below.

We look at Nature too much, and live with her too little.

– Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The History

The land area containing North Pond officially became part of Lincoln Park in 1867. Landscape gardeners Swain Nelson and Olaf Benson created the plan to expand the park from North Avenue to Diversey Parkway including the addition of the 10-acre North Pond, which was completed in 1884 and used for leisure activities.

Sign-up for E-News
Get the latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox
Stay Updated
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.