Back August 4, 2020
Travel Blog

A hidden gem | Wierenga’s Heritage Canyon

A place to explore safely

I’m happy to be back writing about all of the amazing places to see and do in northwest Illinois! Despite our area’s pandemic restrictions, there are still plenty of things to do that can help cure the cabin fever everyone has experienced in the last few months–and stay safe within social distancing guidelines.

The great outdoors in northwest Illinois has always been a favorite scenic destination for travelers to discover. This year, it is especially popular as it provides not only fresh air,  but enough space for you to explore and not feel crowded by others. I found such a place that takes you on a trip back to the 1800s while hiking through a 12-acre wooded area located along the Mississippi River in Fulton, Illinois. This ultimate blast from the past is called “Heritage Canyon.”

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Travel Back in Time

This 12-acre hidden gem, tucked away in the outskirts of Fulton, was established in 1967. The historic village replica, and now a nature walk, depicts an ancient village from the 1800s. On-site buildings include a schoolhouse, doctor’s office, ironworks, an old church, several log cabins, and an old blacksmith shop. Guests are allowed to tour each building during certain hours and times of year.

The original owners of Heritage Canyon, Harold and Thelma Wierenga, operated the property until 2005, when they sold it to the City of Fulton, allowing proper maintenance and public accessibility for hiking, touring, and public and private events. 

The Canyon remains open with the services of an on-site caretaker, a dedicated public works employee, and the Early American Crafters organization.  

The Little White Chapel

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The Heritage Canyon Little White Chapel is available for small weddings and seats up to 25 people. The cost to rent the church is $250, which includes a $50 refundable deposit. Make reservations for the Little White Chapel by contacting the Heritage Canyon caretaker to check for date availability, get more detailed information, and schedule your wedding event. All contact information is at the bottom of this article.

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Heritage Canyon history breakdown

Mid-1800s – 1954
This region was originally a limestone quarry where the rock was crushed for field fertilizer, roadbeds, wing dams, and levees. Trucks, trains, and river barges hauled it away.

1954 – 1967
The quarry was abandoned in 1954 because the sound blasts from dynamiting were damaging both sides of the river. The area became an eyesore to the community with its junk and dilapidated shacks.

1967 – 1999
In 1967, Harold and Thelma Wierenga bought the quarry. They converted the machine shop into a practical workshop and then built their home on the old rock crusher site. The Wierengas changed the quarry, keeping two goals in mind: to preserve Midwestern history, emphasizing detail and authenticity, and each building addition had to disturb nature as little as possible.

1999 – Present
After the passing of Harold Wierenga in January 1999, his daughter and son-in-law oversaw the Canyon for several years. However, the volunteer task of maintaining the Canyon was too much for the couple. In October 2005, the City of Fulton took over ownership of Heritage Canyon. In October 2007, Thelma Wierenga passed away. A memorial for Harold and Thelma is on display near the entrance into the Canyon.  

The season

The Canyon is open seasonally from April โ€“ December, from 9 am โ€“ 5 pm. 

It’s free, but donations are appreciated.

All tours are completely free and self-guided with trails and yellow arrow markers. They do accept donations that go to the preservation of the Canyon. Each path through the wooded hillside leads to one historic building site to the next, including the church, one-room schoolhouse, doctor’s office, blacksmith shop, covered bridge, swinging bridge, and so much more.

Wierenga’s Heritage Canyon
515 N 4th Street
Fulton, Illinois 61252
Call: 563-249-3728 or email .

Facebook: www.facebook.com/WierengasHeritageCanyon
City of Fulton Website: www.cityoffulton.us

๐ŸŒž๐ŸŽถ Ready for a weekend of fun in NW Illinois? Check out these events:

June 20: ๐Ÿฆ… ๐—š๐—ผ๐—น๐—ณ ๐—–๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜ ๐—•๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ง๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐˜€ & ๐ŸŽธ ๐——๐—ถ๐˜…๐—ผ๐—ป'๐˜€ ๐—ฆ๐˜‚๐—บ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐˜€ ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜
June 21: ๐ŸŽท ๐— ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฐ ๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ in Dixon & ๐ŸŒŠ ๐—ฅ๐—ผ๐—ฐ๐—ธ ๐—™๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐˜€' ๐—ฆ๐˜‚๐—บ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฆ๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ต (continues on Saturday!  Grab your friends and family and join us for an unforgettable time! ๐ŸŒŸ 

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FB: Calling all #nature enthusiasts and #birding in #ThompsonIL, on a silent golf cart ride, spotting birds, plants, and flitting butterflies along the way!

The deets:
๐Ÿฆ…Tours run from 8 AM to 10 AM, perfect for those morning birdies! โฐ dates!)
Happening every 1st & 3rd Thursday + 3rd Saturday from Spring to late Summer (May - September)
๐Ÿฆ…This is your chance to experience the refuge like never beforeโ€”all for FREE! Don't miss out โ€“ register today! 
๐Ÿฆ…Spots are limited (7 only!), so register ASAP! [Link in bio!] โžก๏ธ
๐Ÿฆ…This is your chance to experience the refuge like never before โ€“ all for FREE! Don't miss out โ€“ register today!
๐Ÿฆ…Happening every 1st & 3rd Thursday + 3rd Saturday from Spring to late Summer (May to September)

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This Father's Day, create special moments in NW Illinois. ๐—ฆ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ your adventures with us using #๐—™๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐——๐—ฎ๐˜†๐—œ๐—ป๐—ก๐—ช๐—œ๐—น๐—น๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ผ๐—ถ๐˜€!"
https://swiy.co/NEot

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Nothing beats freshly brewed coffee, locally made macaroons, or an iced drink on a hot Friday morning! โ˜•๏ธโœจ Check out @CoffeeCrushDixon for a cozy start to your day. ๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿ‘‰ ๐—•๐—ข๐—ก๐—จ๐—ฆ: The annual nesting of Mama Duck on the property provided 16 ducklings this year! 

#LocalSpotlight #CoffeeLove #VisitNWillinois #middleofeverything #enjoyillinois #leecountyIL #discoverdixon #SupportLocal #CafรฉCulture #MorningBoost #NWILCoffee @discoverdixon @visitleecountyil @thenoblecakery
Here's a sneak peek of what's coming up this weekend in #NWillinois! Lots of art and music, plus a carnival to keep everyone happy. Go to our EVENTS CALENDAR at bio link for a complete listing of things to do.

#VisitNWillinois #middleofeverything @enjoyillinois #enjoyillinois @visitleecountyil @discoverdixon
Bring the kids to #FultonIL to see the amazing De Immigrant Windmill and explore Wierengaโ€™s Heritage Canyon. History and heritage, NW Illinois has it all. ๐ŸŒพ๐Ÿชจ

 #VisitNWIllinois @VisitFulton @enjoyillinois #middleofeverything
It's #roadtrip adventure in ๐—ช๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ ๐—–๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ป๐˜๐˜†! ๐Ÿš— Whether it's an invigorating paddle on the ๐—›๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—–๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—น ๐Ÿ›ถ, finding antique treasures at ๐—ฆ๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜„๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—”๐—ป๐˜๐—ถ๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐˜€ & ๐—ง๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐Ÿบ, hitting the ๐—š๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ฅ๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—•๐—ถ๐—ธ๐—ฒ ๐—ง๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—น all around #FultonIL ๐Ÿšดโ€โ™‚๏ธ, or avoiding singed eyebrows when ordering the Forest Inn Restaurant & Lounge's Saganaki ๐Ÿ”ฅ. #OPA! ๐ŸŽ‰

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Let's show some #MidweekLove ๐Ÿฅฐ in NW Illinois!  This week, tap into the beauty of art at the "๐—ช๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ ๐—ข๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ฆ๐—ฝ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—”๐—ฟ๐˜ ๐—˜๐˜…๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป" opening June 11, or groove to the timeless tunes of ๐—™๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€, the ultimate CCR tribute band on June 12. Then, dive into the hometown charm of ๐—ฃ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ผ ๐—ง๐—ผ๐˜„๐—ป & ๐—–๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ป๐˜๐—ฟ๐˜† ๐——๐—ฎ๐˜†๐˜€  June 12-16, and wrap up with soulful beats at the ๐—ฆ๐˜‚๐—บ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐˜€ ๐—–๏ฟฝ๏ฟฝ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜ ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐˜€  in Dixon on June 13. Don't miss out on these midweek gems! READ ABOUT the events 
 at EVENTS link found at bio link. 

#VisitNWIllinois #MidweekEvents #middleofeverything #enjoyillinois @whitepines_resort  @tnps_dixon #DixonMunicipalBand  #PoloTownandCountryDays @enjoyillinois

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