Become a Member Member Login
Donate Get Involved What We Do Who We Are

Stemler Cave Woods Nature Preserve

Community Steward - Stemler Cave featured image

HeartLands Conservancy is proud to recognize the Friends of Stemler Cave Woods with the July Community Stewardship Award for their work during the first annual “Sinkhole de Mayo”, a morning of volunteer stewardship activities in Stemler Cave Woods Nature Preserve.


On Saturday May 5th, 2012 the Friends of Stemler Cave Woods came together to complete many steward projects in the largest nature preserve in St. Clair County. Projects included: installing a boot scraper and invasive species sign at the trailhead, replacing two damaged interpretative signs, and clearing invasive bush honeysuckle and autumn olive plants that are obstructing parts of the Homer F. Stemler Memorial hiking trail.


Friends of Stemler Cave Woods began in 2005 and have since worked to establish and maintain the trails, conducted invasive species and trash removal, and performed controlled prairie burns. They have also created a map of the Preserve and trails (with assistance from Barnstormers 4-H club), and installed the signs and bench along the trail.


Twenty volunteers participated in the Sinkhole de Mayo event. They included Carrie Magill, Mike Vlastos, Mike Krim, members of the Weck family (Bob, Nancy, Sophie, Hannah), Tony Weck, Daniel Baker, Randi Papke, Dave Jennings, Paul Jennings, the Van Putte family (Robb, Cinnamon, Savanna, Ethan) Nick Jones, the Pruitt Family (Dean, Dewey and Kataya). Totaling in a contribution of 45 person hours of effort.


“The improvements provide recreation by making it possible for visitors to hike the two miles of trails through the Preserve. The honeysuckle (removal) clears some of the wooded areas so that visitors can experience the woods in a more historically natural state, and the interpretive signs and kiosk educate people about the location, its plants and animals and its history.” said Nancy Weck about the Preserve’s value to local area residents.


Stemler Cave Woods is an Illinois Department of Natural Resources owned nature preserve located on Stemler Road, between Millstadt and Columbia, Illinois. It is an old growth forest remnant set in the sinkhole plain with 75 acres of restored prairie. The several sinkholes dotting the site provide rare and important habitat for amphibians.


The parking lot and trailhead provide easy access for people from the surrounding communities. There are two miles of easy to moderate hiking trails winding through the nature preserve.

Eleven interpretative signs along the way explain the karst topography, sinkholes, importance of keeping groundwater safe, biodiversity of Stemler Cave, use of fire in the landscape, prairies, amphibian ponds, forest wildlife, forest birds, upland forests, and sinkhole ponds.


Though the entrance to Stemler Cave is not located in the Preserve, the entire site is within the heart of the Stemler Cave recharge area. Rain falling within this area quickly runs off the surface and flows into the underground stream running through Stemler Cave.


The Friends of Stemler Cave Woods group can be contacted at


Do You Know a Group or Individual who is a Community Steward?


Everyday individuals are making investments of their time and energy to improve their communities. Heartlands Conservancy wants to recognize the efforts of groups or individuals who have made their communities a better place to live by:


• Raising awareness of natural resources

• Restoring natural areas or wildlife habitats

• Making their community more walkable or bikeable

• Connecting residents to nature

• Creating places to play

• Conserving open space and ecosystems

• Improving your community’s quality of life


Community Stewardship Award Winners will be recognized with a feature story in HeartLands Conservancy’s monthly ‘Common Cents’ Newsletter. HeartLands Conservancy will also provide certificates to recognize the

group(s) or individual(s) receiving the award.


To nominate a group or individual for the Community Stewardship Award, have your mayor, city manager, or city council provide a letter of nomination and send it to Sarah Vogt at


Download Article

HeartLands Conservancy | 406 East Main | Mascoutah, Illinois 62258
Phone: (618) 566-4451 | Fax: (618) 566-4452

© 2016 HeartLands Conservancy
All Rights Reserved.