Photo copyright Christopher Jordan

While visiting the east coast this past December, my family took an evening drive to a “Winter Wonderland.” For $18, we were able to drive through three miles of outdoor light displays. Holiday tunes played in time to the light display. The displays were made of silver, blue, red, green and gold lights welded to metal frames in the shapes of larger-than-life castles, horse drawn carriages, poinsettias, wreaths, snowmen, St. Nick, the Grinch, pine trees, leaping deer, dinosaurs and exploding volcanoes! 

While it was an impressive show of human creativity and ingenuity, I couldn’t help but long for our own Winter Wonderland back home in northwest Indiana.

Take a winter morning’s walk at Kankakee Sands and you’ll often find the prairie glittering and sparkling like diamonds and crystals, the thin layer of ice on the vegetation reflecting the orange sun rising. Oak branches, so strong and massive, hold thick blankets of snow high up above our heads, making the entire landscape look like a peaceful, soft, white cloud.  

It’s quiet. The songbirds have gone for the winter, and the insects are not buzzing and whirring about, so all is hushed. It’s a silence broken by a turkey or deer walking in the snow. 

Our very own beautiful, magical, winter wonderland, and it’s completely free of charge! We can delight in it most mornings in so many different locations: Kankakee Sands, Willow Slough FWA, Beaver Lake Nature Preserve, Conrad Savanna, Holly Savanna, or LaSalle FWA. 

But nature is not always predictable. Nature can be surprising and astonishing. The winter wonderlands don’t happen every morning, and that makes them all the more extraordinary and magical when they do transform our brown and grey landscape into a sparkling universe. And it’s also all the more reason to jump out into the middle of the beauty when it does happen. 

The only thing better than enjoying the winter wonderland yourself is sharing the experience with a young one. A young one who will, with fingers crossed, feel the magic of the silent sparkles, and resolve to protect, preserve, and better these places for years and years and even more years to come. 

This 2019, let’s pledge to inspire the next generation by showing them the wonderful and the amazing that surrounds us, especially in this winter time of the year. 

The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands is an 8,300-acre prairie and savanna habitat in Northwest Indiana, open every day of the year for public enjoyment.  For more information about Kankakee Sands, visit or call the office at 219-285-2184.