Family walks through the meadow of Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway

Announcing our second Midwest forest — Better Place Forests Rock River!

Learn about Better Place Forests sustainable Memorial Forest and find your perfect tree

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re expanding our presence in the Midwest and opening our seventh and newest forest in northern Illinois — Better Place Forests Rock River! Only a two-hour drive from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, the Rock River forest brings us one step closer to fulfilling our mission of inspiring everyone to leave a meaningful legacy for the planet and the people they love.

The Rock River forest is located within the Rock River Valley in Oregon, Illinois, near Rock Falls and Freeport. This flourishing 60-acre forest sits on a limestone bluff overlooking the stunning Rock River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. The forest features a richly diverse ecosystem and exudes Midwestern woodland tranquility. A popular wilderness escape for Chicago residents, the Rock River Valley offers fishing, boating, hiking, and an abundance of outdoor recreation in its many state parks and other protected lands.

We’re so happy to preserve this beautiful part of the Midwest and offer more families a meaningful and sustainable end-of-life option.

Discover the beauty of Better Place Forests Rock River

The forest is a short distance from Castle Rock State Park, White Pines Forest State Park, and Lowden State Park — which features a renowned 125-foot statue of Black Hawk that towers over the Rock River. In an area where many forests have been converted to farmland, Better Place Forests Rock River is a protected wooded oasis and a reminder of the importance of protecting American forestland. The forest serves as a critical piece of a contiguous, undeveloped stretch of land that provides migratory pathways and habitats for a variety of native species.

Rick Ryland, the former caretaker of the Rock River property, was overjoyed to learn that Better Place Forests had purchased the property. After stewarding the land for 14 years, no one knows it quite like him.

“When I found out that Better Place Forests would take over the property, I was thrilled. All of those trees could have easily been cut down and turned into farmland or developed. Knowing that Better Place Forests will conserve the land and help more people connect with the natural beauty of this unique forest makes me incredibly happy.” – Rick Ryland, former caretaker of Better Place Forests Rock River

We’re thrilled to have received support from the local community. In the coming months, we’ll hire forest stewards and arborists locally in preparation for in-person tours beginning in the summer of 2021, and ceremonies that will begin in the summer of 2022. We’re grateful for the kind mentions from WREX-NBC, WIFR-CBS, Rochelle News-Leader, and Ogle County Life.

Mark Herman, Superintendent of Education at Byron Forest Preserve, comments: “Better Place Forests is a new addition to land preservation within the community which gives people the opportunity to honor their relatives along with the ability to be a part of the natural world, preserving the land and keeping it from being developed and changed forever.”

Views of the Rock River from the forest

Better Place Forests Rock River is home to many beloved native tree species, including red and white oak, black walnut, red elm, shagbark and bitternut hickories, hackberry, black cherry, and basswood. Beyond the trees, a variety of animals also call the forest home. On a visit, you might spot bald eagles soaring overhead on their migratory path, observe neighboring herons gracefully hunting along the riverbank, and catch a glimpse of wild turkey, deer, and other small woodland animals.

Herons wading in the Rock River

Starting today, you can reserve your own place in this vibrant forest. Book a free online forest tour to discover your forever tree in one of our distinct sections:

  • Riverside Bluff: Big stately trees sit atop an elevated limestone bluff overlooking the Rock River. This riverfront location provides a peaceful and inviting space for reflection as well as virtually endless views of nature.
  • Cathedral Grove: Featuring some of the largest and oldest trees in the forest, Cathedral Grove acts as a reminder of the grandeur of Rock River. With a calming canopy of white oak and black cherry trees, experiencing this section is akin to standing on hallowed ground in a natural cathedral.
  • Woodland Knoll: In the heart of the forest, a seasonal stream runs through Woodland Knoll. Walking through this untouched wilderness, you’ll likely see wild turkeys, deer, and other small mammals roaming freely through the woods.

Views of Rock River from Riverside Bluff

To thank early supporters of Better Place Forests Rock River, we’re offering them first pick of memorial trees and up to 20% savings (over $1,000 on our most popular packages). We’ll also be inscribing their names in the forest to commemorate their early support.

We look forward to showing you the beauty of Better Place Forests Rock River. Book your free online forest tour today to begin creating a more meaningful final resting place.

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