Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • 406 Eliza's Prairie at Dawn

    The route Eliza Steele took from crossing the Des Plaines in Riverside at Ogden can still be taken… although it looks vastly different now.

    Today you take:

    --Joliet Ave. south from Ogden Ave. through Lyons

    --Right (west) onto Joliet Rd

    --Jogging around the quarry in Countryside

    --Following Joliet Rd(Rt 66)

    --Pass LaGrange Rd, Wolf Rd, & I-294

    --Merge onto I-55/Stevenson South

    Today's roads from Lawton's to Joliet.

    -Sunrise 7 Jul. 1840: 4:33 am. (pre-Daylight Savings days)

    -About 15 miles from Lawton’s to when they emerge onto the prairie. ~2 ½ hrs ( 5:30 am)

    "July 7th.--I fell asleep, and when I was awakened at dawn this morning, by my companion, that I might not lose the scene, I started with surprise and delight. I was in the midst of a prairie! A world of grass and flowers stretched around me, rising and falling in gentle undulations, as if an enchanter had struck the ocean swell, and it was at rest forever. Acres of wild flowers of ever hue glowed around me, and the sun arising from the earth where it touched the horizon, was 'kissing with golden face the meadows green.' What a new and wonderous world of beauty! What a magnificent sight! Those glorious ranks of flowers! Oh that you could have 'one glance at their array!' How shall I convey to you an ide of a prairie. I despair, for never yet hath pen brought the scene before my mind. Imagine yourself in the centre of an immense circle of velvet herbage, the sky for its boundary upon every side; the whole clothed with a radiant efflorescence of every brilliant hue. We rode thus through a perfect wilderness of sweets, sending forth perfume, and animated with myriads of glittering birds and butterflies."

    Eliza was traveling west but facing east when she wakened. She saw the sun rising over the prairie at dawn so she had to be facing east. Emerging from the woods she was going uphill towards the ridge on which Lemont Rd. runs. There she would have seen a tree covered (not “meadows green”) horizon until a point between Lemont Rd and where the road cuts to the south at Joliet Rd. So her first view of the prairie would have been between the red line segments. 

    1822 to 1851 Timber Cover

    Eliza's description of first seeing the prairie was probably just past South Lemont Rd. & I-55.

    Today you can:

    --Take I-55 about a mile east of Lemont Rd….continuing along I-55

    --Exiting onto Joliet Road South

    Their stagecoach traveled through about 5.6 miles of prairie. Next they drove through the woods for about 15 minutes. Then traveling another 4.1 miles through prairie on Rt 53, south to where Romeoville HS stands today.

    Eliza's prairie route at dawn