Welcome to Wolf Road Prairie
A Living History Museum

Enjoy your virtual tour of Wolf Road Prairie. We hope your tour inspires you to visit Wolf Road Prairie in person. Help us preserve, protect and restore the prairie for present and future generations.

Mile-high glaciers covered northeastern Illinois some 15,000 years ago. As the ice receded, tundra colonized the land and over time gave way to pines and spruces. The climate grew warmer and drier. Oaks and hickories displaced the coniferous forest, and prairie gradually expanded from the south and west. As recently as 175 years ago, prairie extended over two-thirds of Illinois. Today, less than one one-hundredth of one percent of original grassland remains.

The Wolf Road Prairie we know today had its beginnings 10,000 - 12,000 years ago. Recognized as the finest and largest silt-loam prairie east of the Mississippi, it is especially noted for its diversity and flourishing natural beauty. Wolf Road Prairie is a dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve and a nominated National Natural Landmark.

The preserve encompasses a complex of prairie, wetland and savanna. Too wet to plow or graze extensively, Wolf Road Prairie survived over a century of settlement relatively unharmed. In the 1920’s it was fated to become a housing development, and sidewalks were installed. However, the Great Depression spared the prairie, and its community of rare, threatened and endangered species has survived miraculously to the present day.

Wolf Road Prairie was discovered by local conservationists around 1970. Shortly thereafter an informal group organized to champion its preservation. In 1975, Save the Prairie Society (STPS) was officially chartered as a not-for-profit organization. Since then, volunteers have been drawn to the unique opportunity and challenge of preserving one of the finest natural areas in Illinois. Save the Prairie Society has taken a lead role in native ecosystem restoration at Wolf Road Prairie, thereby protecting rare and endangered species. The Society also sponsors tours and activities as an educational service and is involved in strategic bufferland acquisition to protect the preserve.

The need to protect critical habitat, endangered species, and historic landscapes for future generations has never been more urgent. Wolf Road Prairie, encroached upon by shopping centers, housing developments and corporate complexes, serves as an example of how important it is to preserve urban natural areas for humans and wildlife.

Wolf Road Prairie is being preserved and managed jointly by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, and Save the Prairie Society.

This virtual tour was produced by Valerie Spale, and designed by Cynthia Porter Gehrie, Ph.D., Video Documentation Partnership. It is based on earlier and current trail guides that are available at The Prairie House at Wolf Road Prairie.

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