The 209-acre Baker's Lake Nature Preserve is located along Highway 14, just south of Lake-Cook Road near Barrington. Its main feature is a 165-acre lake and an island, which formerly contained mature oak trees and now has artificial nesting platforms for colonial waders.
Baker's Lake formed as a result of draining a peat bog, which began to smolder with fire. To douse the fire, the area was flooded to create the lake.
Colonial wetland breeders including Black-crowned Night-Heron began to use the island on the lake in the 1970s. Because this island serves as an important Illinois breeding area for colonial nesters, Baker's Lake was dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve in 1984.
When the trees on the island began to die, which is common after many years of usage by colonial breeders, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and other groups erected nesting platforms, which are used today by a host of breeding colonial waders. In 1999, these artificial structures attracted 200 nesting pairs of Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Double-crested Cormorant. Boating, fishing and canoeing are prohibited to protect the birds, which would abandon their nests if unduly disturbed.
The lake also attracts migratory waterfowl and marsh birds including Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Virginia Rail and Sora. In addition, the surrounding landscape has been restored to savanna, and myriad wildflowers as well as migratory birds are found there.
Baker's Lake Nature Preserve protects a rookery for four species of colonial nesting birds including Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great Egret, Double-crested Cormorant and Great Blue Heron. Nesting platforms are maintained on an island where the birds breed, and no boating is allowed on the lake so as not to disturb these wary birds. This site was chosen as an IBA becuse it met the criteria for Wading Birds.
Baker's Lake also supports migratory waterfowl in the spring and fall including thousands of American Coots and numerous grebes, ducks, and rails. The surrounding restored savanna attracts migratory and nesting songbirds.
Baker's Lake is a complex of lake, island, wetland and savanna. It bears witness to one of the most successful savanna restorations in Chicago Wilderness. Volunteers have restored the 17-acre oak and hickory grove that now supports no fewer than 90 remnant plant species.