Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • 409 Endless Prairies & Oak Groves

    credit: Bill Glass

    After passing Mt. Joliet, Eliza describes another prairie, somewhere between Joliet and the Au Sableā€¦. a few miles north of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

    "Flowers again in untold numbers, were covering the prairies. and here are many of our garden flowers growing wild, as blue bells, flox, bouncing bet, sweet william, roses, cocoris, beliotrope, astre, &c., beside wild flowers as fringed gentean, solidago, orchis, yellow golden rod, scarlet lilly, wild indigo, superb pink moccasin flower, and scarlet lobelia. There were many I had never seen--among them was a species of teazle, having a tall stem, purple head, surrounded by a head of long pink leaves--I called it the Indian fairy, for as its dark head bobbed about, and its pink mantle flowed around it.."

    In fact flowers

    "rich as morning sunrise hue, And gorgeous as the gemmed midnight,' were smiling and blooming in every direction. What a nice place for some horticulturist to transport himself and cottage."

    We know there were several possible routes from Joliet to Lisbon and on to Ottawa in 1851, but only one that passes by Mount Joliet. The second prairie she describes was likely between Larkin Ave and I-55, roughly following I-80.

    Notice where the dotted red line stops, two pale gray lines show the stagecoach's path into the "oak opening".

    credit: Cindy Benson

    "The oasis, or 'oak openings', upon the prairies are very beautiful. We passed through on this morning. It presented the appearance of a lawn, or a park around some gentleman's seat. The trees are generally oak, arranged in pretty clumps or clusters upon the smooth grass--or in long avenues, as if planted thus by man. From there limbs hang pretty vines, as the pea vine--lonicera flava, honeysuckle---and white convolvulus. While our carriage wound among these clumps, or through these avenues, it was almost impossible to dispel the illusion that we were not driving through the domain of some rich proprietor, and we almost expected to draw up before the door of some lordly mansion."

    credit: Cindy Benson