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Four Rivers expands outdoor education, celebration space with addition of Riverside Shelter

A view of a covered shelter.
(Photo by Anthony Schalk)

Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon has a new outdoor shelter that will serve as an environmental education space and also as a site for weddings and other special events.

Riverside Shelter was built where two boat slips used to be located at the site. The boat slips had been used by the Channahon Fire Department, but the department moved its operations to a nearby marina.

The Forest Preserve District decided to enhance the site and create another picnic shelter with river views. The work was completed in early May.

“They covered up the boat slip openings and it has a wooden floor area as well as a concrete area,” said Mary Thomas, reservations manager at Four Rivers. “It was very beautifully done. It has little steps, lanterns and string lights.”

The shelter will be used for field trips, public programs and special events throughout the year. 

"We want to get more students outside, and the Riverside Shelter location is perfect for learning about nature," said Lydia Pond, director of visitor services for the Forest Preserve. 

In addition to being used for educational purposes, Riverside Shelter will be available for outdoor ceremonies and parties, Thomas said. Initially, groups of 50 or less can book the site for celebrations. For more information or to book the shelter, call Four Rivers at 815-722-9470 or email [email protected].

More options for wedding couples

Four Rivers is a popular wedding venue because of its outdoor ceremony or reception shelter options and the indoor Illinois River Grand Hall and wedding suite. 

The preserve also has a second shelter, the Four Rivers Shelter, that couples can choose for their ceremonies, receptions or both. 

“The Riverside Shelter gives our wedding couples another location option for their ceremonies,” Thomas said. “And even if the couples have their ceremonies inside the building, their guests can still go down to the shelter to enjoy the evening.” 

Both shelters are exclusive rentals when couples choose Four Rivers for their wedding site. That way, there isn’t another party going on that would conflict with the wedding festivities. 

The new shelter is closer to the river than the Four Rivers Shelter, which has more trees around it. 

“They both have a water view, but the Riverside Shelter is on the river and the Four Rivers Shelter has a river view,” Thomas said. 

The Riverside Shelter is also closer to the Four Rivers visitor center, which is only 0.05 mile away. 

The Riverside Shelter features four picnic tables, but those can be moved to the back concrete area and chairs can be rented for ceremonies, said Kylee Beckwith, a guest services associate at Four Rivers. 

A third and smaller shelter called Kerry Sheridan Grove Shelter can be reserved online. The other two larger shelters can only be booked by contacting the facility. 

In addition to weddings, Four Rivers' shelters have also been rented for graduation parties, celebrations of life, church picnics, retreats, corporate rentals, etc. 

All three shelters have electricity. The Riverside and Four Rivers shelters have lights; the Kerry Sheridan Shelter does not have lights, but it has grills. 

Tucked in the woods

People are drawn to the Four Rivers site for the water, the trees and the scenic views, Thomas said. 

Beckwith added that many outdoor wedding venues are in open fields. 

“We’re more tucked in the woods and you feel you’re more surrounded by nature here,” she said. “It’s perfect for wedding photos. You don’t have to go anywhere else to take photos because there are a lot of options right here.” 

Both the Riverside and Four Rivers shelters can be rented for $350 for four hours or the full day for county residents and $700 for nonresidents. Kerry Sheridan Grove Shelter costs $70 to rent for county residents and $140 for nonresidents.