Interpretive/Nature Trails

Watch now: Monticello’s Allerton Park brings together art, nature

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Derek Peterson, director of Allerton Park and Retreat Center, talks about the many features of the park, including more than 100 sculptures and outdoor ornaments in the 14 formal gardens.



MONTICELLO — Allerton Park and Retreat Center is a study in contrasts and how they can blend together.

A turkey vulture effortlessly floats above a statue of a woman holding vines atop a pedestal.

Chickadees chirp, hidden in the hedges, as you walk toward a sculpture of Adam.



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Nathan Beccue, natural areas manager, looks down at the Sangamon River near a bench along the Schroth Interpretive Trail at Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello on Oct. 13.






More than 100 sculptures and other works of art grace the area north of the Sangamon River, which also contains 14 formal gardens and the Allerton Mansion.

Meanwhile, south of the river, nature’s artistry is on display. A total of 14 miles of trails run through the park on both sides of the meandering river.



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The Avenue of the Chinese Musicians is located between the Chinese Maze Garden and the Sunken Garden at Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello.






“The combination of both the arts and the natural side of things and our historic Georgian-style mansion really add a uniqueness to Allerton that I don’t think you see in Central Illinois very often,” said Derek Peterson, Allerton’s director.

The park, at 515 Old Timber Road, Monticello, is about an hour’s drive from Bloomington-Normal and about a half hour from Decatur.

The 14 formal gardens were created by Robert Allerton between 1899 and 1946. He collected sculptures during his travels around the world.



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Deep red sumac leaves outline a trail along a 50-acre restored prairie at Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello on Oct. 13.






In 1946, Allerton donated the property to the University of Illinois with directions that it be used as a center for education and research and as a reserve for wildlife and plant life.

Ongoing research includes studies of mudpuppy salamanders, longhorn beetles and chimney swifts. The spring-fed reflecting pond adjacent to the mansion is used to raise fish that are endangered or threatened in Illinois.



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Fall colors are starting to show up in the Fu Dog Garden at Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello on Oct. 13. The garden contains 22 porcelain Chinese Fu Dogs collected by Robert Allerton over a period of years.  






A $1 million gift from Dave and Debra Rathje of Decatur was announced in September. The donation will be used for the Fu Dog Garden, including restoration work on the House of the Golden Buddha, and the Solarium, a window-lined “back porch” on the Allerton Mansion.

The sculptures, statues and formal gardens are the most well-known features of Allerton, but the hiking trails are well worth checking out any time of year.

Right now, Mother Nature is just breaking out a new box of crayons after wearing out her green ones.



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Nathan Beccue, natural areas manager, walks along the Schroth Interpretive Trail at Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello on Oct. 13.






“Anywhere from mid-October through mid-November, depending on the weather we get, is kind of the really ideal time to come out and experience the fall color,” said Nate Beccue, natural areas manager. “The best fall color is usually on the south side of Allerton, both the Schroth Interpretive Trail and the trails that leave from the Lost…

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