Beneath Her Protective Gaze
Yep, that's Lisa underneath one of the most amazing oaks in McHenry County! You have probably seen it, but may not have known what you were seeing. It grows on a property on the north side of Illinois Route 120 between Woodstock and McHenry.
From the road, she doesn't look like much. It is short for an old tree, maybe 40 feet tall. And much of the year, she is enveloped in green leaves, so neither the trunk nor the true nature of the tree are apparent.
That is, until you approach her. As you come towards the tree from the southeast, its size hits you. The canopy is easily 75 feet across, and branches on all sides literally touch the ground - not because they are dead, but because that is how they grew from the time the tree sprung from an acorn about 350 years ago.
As you move closer to the tree, the massive trunk comes into view. At 58" diameter when measured about 4 1/2 feet off the ground, it isn't the largest bur oak in the county (although it is surely among the top 10), but because of the massive branches sloping down to the ground, it gives the impression of being the grandmother of all oaks.
We call it the Wolf Oak, because, like the wolves that still roamed this land when the tree was just 150 years old, it was once considered an "outlaw in the face of civilization." Foresters at the turn of the 20th Century advised that Wolf trees - just like their animal cousins - be culled for the health of the farm and woodlot.
The Clark family has owned the property - and taken care of the Wolf oak - since the 1850s. And for generations, they defied conventional wisdom and preserved the wolf oak.
The family - specifically Alice Clark - is already legendary in TLC's history as having donated the first permanent conservation easement to the organization back in 1991. That 4-acre property lies a few hundred yards east of the oak, at the NW corner of Thompson Road and Route 120. Known as the Clark Sisters' Wildflower Preserve, that land will never be developed thanks to the foresight and conservation leadership of Alice Clark.
Now, because of the strong conservation ethic passed down through generations of the Clark family, they will preserve the oak - and the 30 acres of wetland and oak woods that are also found on the property - by selling the land to TLC later this year.
The Clark Family's Wolf Oak has many stories to tell. Thank you for making it possible for TLC to preserve the stories that only the land can share.