18 Oct Visiting Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
One of my favorite perks of working from home is the ability to travel and work from different places. Labor Day weekend I flew back to my home state of Illinois and visited Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Midewin is located on what used to be the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. It was designated a National Tallgrass Prairie in 1996 and the goal of this site is restoration of about 20,000 acres of tallgrass prairie, the largest tallgrass prairie restoration effort east of the Mississippi River. Today less than one hundredth of one percent of true tallgrass prairie remains in Illinois. Most of the prairie was converted into farmland in the 1800’s. Tallgrass prairie is the rarest biome in North America.
The visitor center has a nice exhibit area where one can learn more about the history of the prairie. Bison were re-introduced to Midewin in 2015 as a part of a study between bison and prairie restoration and health. The herd can be seen from lookouts on the Iron Bridge Trail. I was lucky to get a good view of them right by the fence.
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is not currently prairie; it will take decades to restore the prairie and Midewin is an ongoing experiment that produces its own plant seed. There are three native seed production gardens and several grass fields that are tended by amazing volunteers. Eventually, hundreds of native plant species seeds will be produced.
There are nearly 9,000 acres open to the public with 33 miles of trail for hiking, biking, and horseback riding at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.