Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is an effort, by the U.S. Forest Service, to restore a former military arsenal near Joliet, south of Chicago, to its original prairie state. To date only 200 acres of the 20,000+ encompassed in the preserve have been restored but this 200 or so acres gives the visitor a glimpse into the ecology of the State of Illinois prior to white settlement. The preserve is one of the newest (2004) in the U.S. Forest system and represents one of only two National Tallgrass Prairie's that have been established to date, the other one being located in Minnesota.
Due to the fact that the land was previously used by the military only around half of the property is safe and open to the public. Numerous trails criss-cross the preserve allowing the visitor with enough time to explore an impressive variety of habitats and witness the prairie restoration system in action. Unfortunately, I didn't have that much time to explore so I went in search of a trail that would offer a little bit of everything. The Prairie Creek Woods Trail, a short path in the southwestern corner of the preserve, fit the bill nicely. This short path travels past tiny Buttonbush Pond, through a very pretty Oak-Hickory forest, and around the largest display of completely restored tallgrass prairie in the preserve...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 41.341734, -88.171130
Mileage Hiked: 1.5 miles
Trailhead Temp: 91'F
Min. Elevation: 530'
Max Elevation: 580'