Explore Kane! From Gray's Mill To RiverEdge Park, All Kinds of Attractions in Southern Kane County

Explore Kane! From Gray’s Mill To RiverEdge Park, All Kinds of Attractions in Southern Kane County

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a five-part series on Kane County outdoor recreational opportunities you can enjoy right now during Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan. Today’s Part 5 of the series is co-written by Karen Miller and Chris Toth of the Kane County Development And Community Services Department, Preservation Planner Julia Thavong and Ryan Peterson, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Kane County Department of Transportation.

RiverEdge Park Aerial View with kayaks. (CREDIT: Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Welcome to the southern part of Kane County!

For bikers and walkers, refer to the Kane Kendall Council of Mayors Bike & Pedestrian App and begin your trip on the Fox River Trail on the west side of State Street and IL Route 31 in North Aurora. The village offers a great selection of dining, shopping and local businesses, a short ride from the trail.

Downtown Aurora View South. (CREDIT: James Cardis, Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

As you travel south on the Fox River Trail, you will enter the city of Aurora at Sullivan Road. The city has been working to fully utilize the river property and the Fox River Trail for the enjoyment of all of its visitors.

Further along, just off of the Fox River Trail to the east is Aurora’s historic roundhouse, built in 1856 by the Chicago and Aurora Railway looking toward expansion to the west. The building’s walls are constructed of locally quarried Batavia limestone.

The roundhouse was in operation until 1974, but recognized as an innovative and unique building and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The Roundhouse, now Two Brothers Brewing, is a must-see stop in Aurora. Photo by Julia Thavong.

The building was abandoned for 21 years, then in 1995, an investment group headed by Chicago Bear Walter Payton proposed to re-develop the property as a brewpub, restaurant, museum and open-air pavilion.

Since that time, the roundhouse has been a brewpub and restaurant, and is presently owned by Two Brothers Brewing. Enjoy a brew and a delicious meal before taking in a concert across IL Route 25/Broadway at River Edge Park.

Continuing south through downtown Aurora, experience the diversity of activities, events and amenities of the second-largest city in Illinois.

As you approach the southern border of Kane County, the last historic spot along the Fox River Trail not to be missed is Gray’s Mill in Montgomery. Daniel Gray, a founding member of the village, recognized the potential for harnessing the power of the Fox River to grind wheat for transport to the growing Chicago market.

Gray’s Mill. Photo by Julia Thavong.

Built in 1853, its original purpose was as a water-powered turbine flour mill on the Fox River. The mill is four stories tall and constructed of limestone with quoining at its corners for decoration. It operated by water power until 1916, when the Montgomery dam failed, and then by electric power until 1922.

The mill has been adapted for different uses since its first closing, most recently as a restaurant and event venue.

Feel free to extend your trip to the north into the city of Batavia and/or to the south into Kendall County.

Take an Adventure By Paddling

The first part of the following adventure is doable for all paddling abilities, while the complete trip entails portaging around the Aurora/Stolp Island Dam.

After reviewing the Safety Info for Paddlers and printing maps for Segments No. 10 and No. 11 from the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail website, Veterans Memorial Island Park (river mile 49.3) in the city of Aurora has a boat launch that would be a great place to start an excursion!

Find this access site by exiting East Illinois Avenue via the south entrance of Veterans Island Park. Paddle downstream through islands as the Fox River widens and flows through urban land uses.

In less than a mile, the new River Edge Park appears on the east side of the river. River Edge Park hosts weekly concerts and shows that draw some of music’s biggest names to perform at this beautiful venue. Taking in a show on a boat is likely a new experience for many.

Be sure to exit the Fox River at the Pinney Street access site on the west side, (river mile 48.6) upstream of the Hollywood Casino and the Aurora/Stolp Island Dam.

Downtown Aurora. Photo by Julia Thavong.

Views of Aurora’s parks and historic downtown buildings are impressive. For instance, Leland Tower was the tallest building in Illinois outside of Chicago, is easily seen from this stretch of the river.

The former hotel was listed in the Stolp Island Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places and has been rehabilitated as an apartment building.

For those portaging around the Aurora/Stolp Island Dam, walk south and reenter the Fox River at the Aurora West access site (river mile 48.4). Enjoy a paddle among several islands as you approach the South River Street Park access site, river right (river mile 47.1) before reaching the Montgomery Dam.

To visit Gray’s Mill, walk south to the corner of North River Street and the Mill Street Bridge. As a grist mill, a large mill race ran under the building, where the water power was harnessed.

More About Southern Kane County Attractions

Make sure to visit the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for more information about upcoming events, great local restaurants, and new places to stay. While you’re there, check out the 2020 Enjoy Aurora Go Guide, which includes great ideas for your visit to Southern Kane.

Kane County’s Why Kane website will link you directly to the other chambers of Southern Kane for additional trip information. Always remember to shop local!

We hope you have enjoyed this taste of Kane County’s land and water-based trails and we encourage you to go out and experience the natural resources Kane County has to offer as well as the many businesses that exist along these trails.

A Note From The Kane County Development and Community Services Department

The Kane County Development and Community Services Department is encouraging residents to get outside and also to support local businesses during all phases of the Restore Illinois Plan.

Visit the Why Kane website for links to Community Development Connections — economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, utilities and businesses committed to helping present and future citizens of Kane County grow and prosper.

Read The Series!