Midewin Tallgrass Prairie

Visit our country's first National Tallgrass Prairie.

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established in 1996 and is the first National Tallgrass Prairie in the country.

The Midewin is administered by the U.S. Forest Service, in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and with the support of hundreds of volunteers and partner agencies, businesses, and organizations.

Interesting History
The Illinois Land Conservation Act (Public Law 104-106) created the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and designated the transfer of 19,165 acres of land in Illinois from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and mandates that the Midewin be managed to meet four primary objectives:

  • To conserve, restore, and enhance the native populations and habitats of fish, wildlife, and plants.
  • To provide opportunities for scientific, environmental, and land use education and research.
  • To allow the continuation of existing agricultural uses of lands within Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie for the next 20 years, or for compatible resource management uses thereafter.
  • To provide recreational opportunities that are compatible with the above purposes.
  • Part of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, Midewin remained largely closed to the public while the Army cleaned up contamination remaining from decades of TNT manufacturing and packaging.

    Beginning in 2004, 6,400 acres of Midewin opened to the general public for nonmotorized recreation use.

    Recreation Opportunities
    Midewin is open every day, from an hour before sunrise until an hour after sunset. A few trails are open to visitors

    Midewin staff, volunteers, and guest leaders offer a variety of interpretive tours and exploration activities. Some tours are escorted in caravans with viewing stops and radio commentary, some feature outdoor activities, and some are especially designed by and for history buffs.

    There are currently no overnight camping facilities at Midewin. Nearby public campgrounds are available at the Kankakee River State Park and Des Plaines Fish & Wildlife Area.

    Hunting at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is available on all lands open to the public. The Midewin Special Hunt Area Rules ensure a successful recreational experience for all.

    Midewin Tallgrass Prairie statistics

    State(s):
    Illinois

    Nearest large Urban Area:
    Chicago

    Notes & Conditions:
    Purchase an annual pass for access to all federal recreation areas that charge entrance fees, including National Parks, National Recreation Areas, and other destinations. Learn more, or purchase The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass online today!

    Maps:
    Visit the National Forest Store to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.

    Permits, passes, fees:
    The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and is a federal facility. State hunting laws as outlined in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations are enforced at Midewin with the additions specified in the Special Hunt Area Rules.

    First-timer's adventure:
    The Midewin Geology Tour examines the area's unique geology. Prehistoric oceans, ice age glaciers, and flooding rivers have all helped shape the Midewin landscape. This tour will explore the role of geology in creating the tallgrass prairie ecosystem and how that geology influences the ways we restore the prairie. Check out this or one of the other tours available.

    Contact Info:
    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

    30239 South State Route 53
    Wilmington, Illinois 60481
    Voice: (815) 423-6370
    Fax: (815) 423-6376

    Click here for driving directions.

    Forest Service website >>

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