Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • 412 Eliza's Route Today & Midewin Prairie

    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie at sunrise credit: Bill Glass

    Enlarge map below to follow red car images along Eliza's route on today's roads.

    Below you will see Eliza's route on today's roads. There is no guarantee that all the roads will always be passable. We are not responsible to inaccessibility of routes listed or hour that museums are open.

    Basic route direction & directions with historical commentary on todays roads are available below.

    Directions on Modern Roads for Eliza's Route

    Chicago: Lake House Hotel

    -Start at 400 N. Michigan Ave. (Lake House Hotel Wrigley Bldg.)

    -Across from Wrigley Bldg. on eas side of Michigan Ave. heading north is small turn out (can view Wrigley Bldg.)

    -MERGE onto Michigan Ave northbound

    -Go 4 blocks north

    -LEFT (west) onto Ontario

    -Go 4 blocks

    -LEFT (south) onto Clark St.

    -Cross bridge on Clark St. (Stage stopped on east side of Clark St. bridge to pick up mail)

    -Pass Wacker Dr.

    -Go 2 blocks

    -RIGHT (west) onto Randolph St.

    -Cross bridge on Randolph St.

    -Go 4 blocks

    -Pass under Metra Market Bldg.

    -Go 3 blocks

    -LEFT (south) onto Clinton St.

    -Go 2 blocks

    -RIGHT (west) onto Madison St.

    -Go 3 blocks

    -Cross over expressway

    -Continue .9 miles

    -Cross Ogden Ave.

    The Wet Prairie

    -Continue 1.5 miles

    -Pass California Ave.

    -Go ½ a block more

    -LEFT (south) onto Mozart St.

    -Go 100 ft.

    -RIGHT (southwest) at “T” onto 5th Ave. (Stage lost the road at night here)

    -LEFT (south) onto Kedzie Ave. about .4 miles

    -1st RIGHT (west) onto Jackson Blvd.

    -LEFT (south) onto Homan Ave.

    -Go short distance

    -RIGHT onto 5th Ave. again

    -Continue (southwest) about .3 miles

    -Cross Central Park Ave.

    -Pass school & see a “No OutletDO NOT ENTER

    -LEFT (south) onto Millard Ave.

    -RIGHT (west) onto West Congress Parkway

    -LEFT (south) onto Independence Blvd.

    -Cross over Eisenhower Expressway/I-290

    -Go 3 blocks south of expressway

    -RIGHT (west) onto Polk St.

    -RIGHT (north) onto Pulaski

    -Go 2½ blocks to stoplight

    -LEFT (southwest) onto 5th Ave. again

    Go 1 mile

    -LEFT (south) onto Cicero Ave./Rt.50

    Pass Roosevelt Rd. and enter town of Cicero

    Eliza’s Route through Cicero, Berwyn, Riverside

    -Go south on Cicero Ave.

    -RIGHT (west) onto 16th St.

    Go 2 miles

    -Pass Lombard Ave. enter town of Berwyn

    -Barry’s Point is east of Ridgeland & south of 16th St., slight rise in elevation

    -LEFT (south) at Ridgeland Ave.

    -Go 3½ block to stoplight

    -RIGHT (west) onto Cermak Rd./22nd St.

    -Go .35 miles

    -Get into LEFT turn lane past Berwyn Post Office (on left)

    -Come to 3 road intersection of Cermak, Wesley, & Riverside

    -LEFT onto Riverside Dr.

    At 26th St. & Riverside Dr. are two points of interest

    At southeast corner by Morton H.S. is small patch of woods left from the line at top of “sand ridge”

    At southwest corner is a modern ranch house where Widow Barry’s Tavern once stood

    -Continue on Riverside Dr.

    -Cross Harlem Ave. and enter town of Riverside

    -Here Riverside Drive becomes Longcommon

    -Cross Burlington RXR & turn immediately

    -Go 1.3 milels

    -RIGHT onto Bloomingbank Rd.

    -Bloomingbank Rd. merges into Barry Point Rd. in couple hundred feet

    -Before crossing bridge at Des Plaines River (on east side of road Lawton’s changed stage horses here)

    -CROSS Des Plaines River Bridge (Eliza’s stage forded river here)

    -Continue south on Barry Point Rd.

    -At stop light, CROSS Ogden Ave. (Here Barry Point Rd. becomes Joliet Ave.)

    Lyons and Southward

    -Go SOUTH on Joliet Ave. for 1 mile (Entering town of Lyons)

    -RIGHT (south) at the “T” onto Joliet Rd./Rt.66

    -Go 1.4 miles, pass under 1st Ave & over RXR bridge

    -RIGHT onto 55th St. and go .9 miles

    -LEFT onto East Ave. at 3rd stoplight, go ½ a mile

    -RIGHT (southwest) at 1st stoplight onto Joliet Rd.

    -Go 2.5 miles

    -MERGE onto I-55 South

    Eliza’s First View of the Prairie at Dawn

    -Go SOUTH on I-55 4.1 miles (under Cass Ave. overpass)

    -Go 3.5 miles

    -Approach the I-355 exit

    -Take the Joliet Rd. exit that puts you on Joliet Rd. again

    Bolingbrook, Romeoville, & Breakfast

    -Go 2.1 miles on Joliet Rd. south of I-55

    -Pass Veterans Woods

    -MERGE onto IL Rt. 53 at next intersection & go south

    -3 miles south is Romeoville H.S. parking lot (site of Taylor Farm where Eliza ate breakfast)

    -Good stop at parking lot

    -Go 2.5 mile to Rt. 7

    Verdant Valley & Silver Stream

    -From Rt. 7, 1.5 miles south on left is Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve (Eliza wrote of this valley)

    -LEFT at Division St., stoplight onto Lockport Prairie (Trailhead & path along road)

    -Turn around & go back to Rt. 53

    -RIGHT onto Rt. 53

    -GO 3 miles

    -LEFT on Ruby St.

    -Cross bridge over Des Plaines River

    -RIGHT immediately on far side of bridge onto Ontario/Rt. 53

    Parking for Museum

    -RIGHT onto Webster St.

    -Free Park in museum lot at corner of Ottawa & Webster St. & metered parking curbside

    -Museum at corner of Ottawa & Rt. 30

    -Entrance at curved driveway on Ottawa

    Continue the Route

    -Go south on Ontario St./Rt.53 merges with US Rt.6 & Rt.52

    -Go 1 mile

    -Get onto I-80 West

    -Go 2¼ mile & cross Des Plaines River westbound

    -Exit onto Exit 130A, Larkin Ave. South

    -MERGE onto southbound Larkin Ave.

    -Go ½ a mile to intersection of Larkin & Moen (former site of Mt. Joliet)

    -LEFT onto Moen Ave.

    -1st LEFT onto Morris St.

    -Go 2 blocks

    -LEFT onto Meadow Ave.

    -1st RIGHT (north) onto Larkin

    -Get onto I-80 West again

    Visit the restored prairie at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

    -Go 4½ miles on I-80

    -Exit onto I-55 South

    -Go 9¼ miles

    -Exit at 241 North River Rd.

    -LEFT at top of ramp onto N. River Rd.

    -Go 1¾ miles

    -LOOK for sign on left “US Forest Service” & brown shed

    -Be Careful no left turn lane & commercial traffic heavy

    -LEFT onto Boathouse Rd.

    -Go 3/10 of mile

    -RIGHT into parking lot

    -Walk to northwest corner of lot pass restrooms

    -Go through gate & follow gravel path to LEFT

    -RIGHT onto gravel road

    -Go 500 ft.

    -Cross creek & turn RIGHT onto Henslow Trail & enter prairie

    -Trail is 5 miles to next trailhead, when you have had your fill of prairie beauty turn around & return to parking lot

    Back to Eliza’s Trail

    -LEFT out of parking lot

    -RIGHT at stop sign onto N. River Rd.

    -RIGHT onto I-55 North

    -Go 9.25 miles

    -Exit onto I-80 West

    To Aux Sable Creek

    -West on I-80 for 4.3 miles

    -Exit 122, Ridge Rd.

    -RIGHT at top of ramp onto Ridge Rd. (north)

    -Go 4/10 mile north

    -LEFT onto Holt Rd. (west)

    -Go 1.6 miles to Aux Sable Creek (Stage crossed creek here)

    End of Route

    Read More

    Historical Commentary of Eliza's Route on Modern Day Roads

    As you might guess, Eliza Steele’s July 6-7 1840 route from Chicago to Peru, Illinois was vastly different than what we see today. Both the landscapes and the roads themselves would be unrecognizable to her. These directions come as close to her route as still exists. The directions also include a slight diversion to experience Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. You will get at least a glimpse of the restored prairie at a section we call South Patrol Road. It is hoped that even that small scale glimpse at a prairie, similar to what she saw, might help you to at least imagine her, “world of grass and flowers.”

    Chicago: Lake House Hotel.

    The route begins at 400 N. Michigan Avenue, where the Lake House Hotel once stood and today the Wrigley building stands. The Michigan Avenue Bridge, across the Chicago River had not yet been built. She would have gone west along the north bank of the River, to the Clark Street Bridge, where the stage turned left to go south and pick up the mail.

    Across the street from the Wrigley building, on the east side of Michigan Avenue heading north, is a small turn out you could pull into. From there you can view the Wrigley building and the small archway leading to what would have been the road now called Kinzie Street. Merge back onto Michigan Avenue northbound. Drive 4 blocks north to Ontario Street. Turn left to go west on Ontario Street for 4 blocks. Then turn left onto southbound Clark Street. 

    Crossing the River on Clark Street, the bridge in Eliza’s time would have been somewhat similar to a pontoon bridge, with the roadway spanning floating boat-like hulls. It could be unfastened at the distant shore end and swung out of the way. This would permit river traffic to proceed up the Chicago River or down to Lake Michigan. Just over the bridge, on the east side of Clark Street they would have stopped to pick up the mail at the post office. This was still within a rented city building. There was, as of yet, no dedicated post office in Chicago.

    At Randolph Street, turn right to proceed west. The Randolph Street bridge would have been the only one crossing the South Branch of the Chicago River in 1840.  After crossing the bridge, stay on Randolph driving under the Metra Market building. When you emerge, turn left onto southbound Clinton Street. Proceed 2 blocks south and turn right or west onto Madison St. She described what she saw headed west along Madison Street, “We took up the mail at the post office, and then drove through a long range of cheerfully lighted shops until we found ourselves outside of town.”

    In a few blocks you’ll cross but DO NOT turn at Ogden Avenue. Ogden was completed in 1848 and was called, “The Southwest Plank Road”, It was a toll road built to avoid the swampy path across the wet prairie that Eliza took that night. As you pass the United Center, you’ll proceed through the intersection of Madison and Wood Street. You’ll remain on Madison heading west, and note that Wood Street was Chicago’s western boundary in 1840. West of Wood Street the stage would have been traveling through unincorporated Cook County. Continue west on Madison Street.

    The Wet Prairie

    After passing California Avenue, remain on Madison Street for another ½ block where you’ll be able to turn left (south) onto Mozart Street. It is only about 100 ft. long. Mozart ends at a “T” where you’ll turn right onto 5th Avenue, heading southwest. In 1840, Madison Street ended just past California Avenue and the trail turned southwestward on the ill-defined and unpaved path through the wet prairie called “Barry Point Road.” Today there are 3 unconnected segments of 5th Avenue in Chicago that approximate the path of Barry Point Road. As you travel along the segments of 5th Avenue, imagine them as Eliza found them in 1840. Her stage lost the path of the road at night and one of her fellow passengers chided the stage driver, saying, “’Lost the road!’ exclaimed the youth in dismay; ‘lost in these lonely moors among wolverines and jack-o’-lanterns! Here’s a pretty fix!’”

    When this segment of 5th Avenue/Barry Point Road ends turn left to go south on Kedzie Avenue. Then, at your first right, go west on Jackson Boulevard. Follow Jackson Boulevard west a short distance to Homan Avenue. Turn left to go south on Homan Avenue and you’ll almost immediately see 5th Avenue again on your right. Turn right onto this, the second remaining segment of 5th Avenue to continue southwestward. Continue across Central Park Avenue on 5th Avenue. Just on the other side of the school you’ll see on your right is the greenspace of Garfield Park.

    Just past the school you’ll see a yellow “No Outlet” sign. DO NOT ENTER that segment of road. Instead turn left to go south on South Millard Avenue. Turn right to go west on West Congress Parkway. At Independence Boulevard, turn left to go south, crossing over the Eisenhower Expressway/I-290. About 3 blocks south of the expressway, turn right to go west on Polk Street. Take Polk Street west to Pulaski. There turn right to go north on Pulaski. In 2½ blocks turn left to go southwest onto the final extant segment of 5th Avenue. This segment of 5th Avenue/Barry Point Road ends at Cicero Avenue.

    At this point, you are at about 900-1000 South on Cicero Avenue (which is 4800 west). Turn left to go south on Cicero Avenue. When you pass Roosevelt Road (1200 south) you will be in the town of Cicero.

    Eliza’s Route through Cicero, Berwyn, and Riverside

    No portion of the old Barry Point Road remains through the town of Cicero. Driving south on Cicero Avenue turn right to go west on 16th Street.  Take 16th Street westward through the town of Cicero. When passing Lombard Avenue (6200 west) going west, you will pass from the town of Cicero to the town of Berwyn. As you approach Ridgeland Avenue (6400 W.) while driving on 16th Street, you’ll see a very slight rise in elevation to the west. "Barry Point” itself was where the trail across the wet prairie rose onto slightly higher sandy, wooded ground. It is actually the deposition of one of the earlier shorelines of Lake Michigan. 

    At the corner of 16th Street and Ridgeland, turn left to go south on Ridgeland Avenue. On June 26, 1835, John R. Barry purchased the 80 acre parcel of land bounded on the west by Ridgeland Avenue and on the north by 16th Street. Somewhere just east of Ridgeland Avenue and just south of 16th Street, the rise in ground became known as “Barry Point.”

    Continue south on Ridgeland Avenue to Cermak Road (2200 South). There, turn right to go west on Cermak Road. Travel .35 miles west on Cermak and get into he left turn lane just past the Berwyn Post Office on your left. At the light, at the intersection of Cermak Road, Wesley Avenue and Riverside Drive, turn about 45 degrees left to get onto southwest-bound Riverside Drive. The segment of the old Barry Point Road stage route is known as Riverside Drive. It has survived 180 years since Eliza Steele’s journey. In the 1860s, it was widened as part of a deluxe carriage way from Chicago to the Des Plaines River. At the stop light, at Riverside Drive and 26th Street, are two locations of note. At the southeast corner, of the Morton West Hight School athletic fields, is a small patch of woods. This may be the last patch of the woods remaining of the trees that once lined the top of the “sand ridge.” Across 26th Street, on the southwest corner is a modern ranch-style house. Somewhere on that lot was “The Widow Barry’s” tavern. The Widow Barry was John R. Barry’s mother and although she owned the tavern, she lived in modern Homewood. Also of note, she never owned the property. Her mother, Cynthia Rollson, was the owner of the underlying land. Continue to drive southwest on Riverside Drive to Harlem Avenue.

    Crossing Harlem southwestward on Riverside Drive, you enter the town of Riverside and “Riverside Drive” becomes “Longcommon.” Renowned landscape architect Frederik Law Olmstead designed Riverside to be an “ideal” suburb in 1869. Much of what later became the town of Riverside was meadow and wooded lands along Barry Point Road and the broad floodplains and terraces above the Des Plaines River. Olmstead planned the community as one of the first suburbs, where Chicago businesspeople could easily commute by train to their quasi-country homes in Riverside. In laying out the suburb, Olmstead retained much of the original path of Barry Point Road as Longcommon. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincey Railroad which entered service in 1864 provided the station that would permit commuters to board their train in Riverside and arrive in downtown Chicago.

    Cross the Burlington railroad tracks southward on Longcommon, make an immediate right onto Bloomingbank Road. After a couple of hundred feet this merges into Barry Point Road. This segment of Barry Point Road approximates the path of the original road with that name. Just before crossing the Des Plaines River bridge, on the east side of the road, would have stood Lawton’s or by its original spelling, “Laughton’s” Tavern. In 1828, brothers David and Barney Laughton moved to this location from their previous home on the South Branch of the Chicago River. Barney owned and managed a trading post there which also served as a tavern or inn for travelers to and from Chicago. That is most likely where Eliza Steele’s stagecoach stopped in the predawn hours of 7 July, 1840 to change horses before fording the Des Plaines. Cross the bridge and the road turns southward. Continue south across Ogden Avenue and you are on Joliet Avenue in Lyons.

    Lyons and Southward

    Proceed south on Joliet Avenue for about 1 mile. The road will veer westward a bit towards the end. At Joliet Road the road Ts. Turn right to procced southwest through the town of McCook. Joliet Road will pass under 1st Avenue, and over a railroad bridge. After you have gone 1.4 miles on Joliet Road the road will turn right and become 55th Street. Follow it west for .9 miles to East Avenue. Turn left onto East Avenue for ½ a mile where you can again rejoin Joliet Road southwestward by turning right. The 55th Street and East Avenue segments are the bypass for the segment of Joliet Road where limestone quarrying operations on both sides of the road had rendered it unstable.

    Continue on Joliet Road for 2.5 miles through Countryside, Hodgkins and Indian Head Park. Eliza would have made this portion of the trip at night, intermittently passing through and along the woods and traversing short patches of prairie meadows in the dark. It is likely that the stage made an unmentioned stop to change horses somewhere in this stretch. Follow the signs on Joliet Road for I-55 South. In Burr Ridge, Joliet Road merges onto I-55 South.


    The only firm times Eliza provides are that when the stagecoach lost the road: “the hour, seen by the light of the coach lamp proved to be twelve,” and that regaining the road, they arrived at Laughton’s on the banks of the Des Plaines, “a few hours after this.” That would have placed their arrival at Laughton’s sometime after 2 am. The amount of time it normally took to change horses was 20 minutes to 1 hour. It took longer if the tack was dirty and had to be cleaned before it was put on the fresh horses. In this case, they had been driving across the mud of the wet prairie for several hours and Barney Laughton was asleep. Clearly not ready to immediately change their horses when they arrived. We estimate it would have been around 3 am before they were ready to proceed.

    It was 12.2 road miles from when they left Laughton’s to when they emerged from the woods. This is about where Oldfield Road today crosses I-55. Stagecoach speeds were between 5 and 7 mph depending on road and terrain. Assume their rate of travel on an established, clearly visible, and dry road, though still in the dark, was about 5-6 mph. This would have put them heading up the rise upon which Lemont Road today runs at about 5 am. In 1840, sunrise near Chicago, on July 7th, in the days before standardized time zones or daylight savings, was at 4:31 am. But full daylight, with the sun fully over the horizon as Eliza describes it, would have been a bit later. So, sometime between 5 and 5:30 am would have put her in the early morning sun that she described. This place looks east, up towards the prairied rise on which Lemont Road today runs. She would have had a view of, “the sun arising from the earth where it touched the horizon, was ‘kissing with golden face the meadows green.’”

    Eliza’s First View of the Prairie at Dawn

    Drive south on I-55, about 4.1 miles south of the Cass Avenue overpass. You will be approximately abreast of the point where the stagecoach emerged from the woods. Ahead, one can see the rise in the land where Lemont Road runs. It’s a little difficult to correlate the terrain from the time of Eliza’s journey to the landscape of today. I-55 runs slightly below grade at this point, and the I-55 bridge over Lemont Road gives the appearance that Lemont Road is on low ground. Once passing south of the Lemont Road high ground, the smoothed elevations confirm that this gentle rise would have been sufficient, to provide her the view she describes.

    South of Lemont Road, in July of 1840, you would have been in the midst of the vast prairie she describes. With, “a dark green waving line of trees near the distant horizon, which are shading some gentle stream” to the south. Once the carriage turned more southwesterly, to the north as well.

    Approaching the I-355 exit and remaining on I-55, you’ll see signs for the Joliet Road exit. Take the exit which will place you on Joliet Road again, headed generally south.

    Bolingbrook, Romeoville and Breakfast

    About 2.1 miles south of I-55 on Joliet Road, to your left you can catch a glimpse of what remains of the “oak opening”. She mentions these after her prairie reverie. Today these oak openings are the entrance to the Roy F. Hassert Grove of Veteran Woods, Will County Forest Preserve. In Eliza’s time, the woods would have been on both sides of the road. They would have taken the stagecoach about 10 to 15 minutes to pass through.

    About 1,000 feet after passing the southern edge of Veteran Woods, Bolingbrook Drive/Illinois State Route 53 merges with Joliet Road from the north (right). Continue south on IL Route 53.

    About 3 miles south of the merge of Joliet Rd/IL Route 53, you will see Romeoville High School on your right. Roughly abreast of the parking lot, would have been Taylor’s farmhouse. The stage stopped here so the passengers could have breakfast. It would have been about 7 miles, or just over an hour since she first glimpsed the prairie. Just over 20 miles from Laughton’s where she last notes a change of horses. After breakfast she gives an extended discussion of how coffee was made. Then she explicitly notes that “our horses prancing gaily as if refreshed by their breakfast.” It’s possible that these were the same horses, but the next noted change of horse was in Joliet, 7.5 miles further south. This suggests that the horses worked an extended shift of 27.5 miles.

    Continue south on IL Route 53 after passing Romeoville High School. For the next 4 miles you can occasionally glimpse the valley of the Des Plaines to the left (east). She describes her view of the “verdant valley” and the “silver stream” of the Des Plaines as the stagecoach rolled on. Today, much of the valley on the west bank of the Des Plaines is set aside for conservation as the Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve. The road will have various names, “Will County 11,” “Independence Boulevard.” and “Broadway Street.” Continue to follow the Route. 53 signs.

    Approaching Joliet, follow Route 53 and turn left (eastward) at Ruby Street. Cross the bridge over the Des Plaines River. Make an immediate right once you’ve crossed the bridge to remain on Route 53.

    Joliet Area Historical Museum

    If you would like to stop, in a few blocks, south of Benton Street, you will see the museum. For parking, turn right at Webster Street and turn into the parking lot on the northwest corner of Webster and “Ottawa Street” (what Route 53 is called at that point). The museum entrance will be on the east side of Ottawa on your left and hundred feet or so south.

    Continuing the Route

    Continue south on Route 53/Ottawa Street which will merge with US Route 6, then a little further, will merge with Route 52. Follow the signs to get on I-80 West. Having merged onto I-80 West you’ll soon cross over the Des Plaines westbound. You’ll travel on I-80 about 2¼ miles and take the exit 130A onto South Larkin Avenue/Will County Route 7.

    Merging onto southbound Larkin Avenue, travel about ½ a mile to the intersection of Larkin and Moen. At the time of Eliza’s trip, you would have been atop Mount Joliet. Extensive quarrying since that time has completely consumed the mound or geologically speaking, the “drumlin”. The 1825 illustration of Mount Joliet can be viewed on stop 407of this tour.

    At Larkin and Moen Avenues, turn left onto Moen Avenue. Make the first left turn onto Morris Street. In 2 blocks, make another left turn to head west onto Meadow Avenue. Make the first right turn to head north on Larkin Avenue. Get back on I-80 westbound.

    Visit the restored prairie at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

    Once back on I-80 West, travel just under 4½ miles to the exit for I-55 Southbound. The route that Eliza traveled westward from Mount Joliet no longer exists. This old route went generally west, sometimes north and sometimes south of the path of modern I-80. She describes a second prairie on page 132 of her book. The old route would have extended for several miles, from west of Mount Joliet to about the intersection of I-80 and I-55.

    Later in her book, after she describes her stop at the ford of the Aux Sable Creek, she recalls the “oak opening” she saw on the road between Joliet and the Aux Sable. As you merge onto I-55 south, just south of I-80 the edge of that “oak opening” would have been on your left (west). Although not visible nor mentioned in her narrative, she would have crossed the DuPage River about ¾ of a mile west of entering the “oak opening.”

    Continue south on I-55 about 9¼ miles to exit 241, North River Road. Exit and turn left onto River Road towards Wilmington at the top of the ramp. Travel 1¾ miles southeast on River Road to Boathouse Road. There will be a sign on the fence on the left or north) side of the road that says, “US Forest Service.”

    Be very careful when turning left (north) onto Boathouse Road across traffic. There is no left turn lane and this part of River road is heavily used by commercial vehicles.

    Travel about 3/10ths of a mile north on Boathouse Road to the parking lot on your right. Park and walk through the gate on the northwest corner of the parking lot, just north of the rest rooms. Follow the gravel path west to regain Boathouse Road and turn right to head north. In about 500 feet after crossing a creek you’ll see the South Patrol Road prairie restoration. It's a crushed gravel trail on the east side of the road. Take this trail east to experience Eliza's view of prairie. Although, it can’t compare to the seemingly endless prairies that Eliza saw, it does at least provide a glimpse into a larger scale prairie. This trail is a straight 5 mile walk to another trailhead. It does not loop, so turn around when you have had your fill of prairie beauty. Then head back the way you came to reach the parking lot.

    Back to Eliza’s Trail

    Return to your vehicle, drive south and turn right at the stop sign. Go back towards I-55 on River Road. Follow the signs to enter I-55 Northbound. Proceed north on I-55 about 9.25 miles. Then take the exit for I-80 West.

    To the Aux Sable Creek

    Heading west on I-80 for about 4.3 miles, exit at Ridge Road,(exit 122). At the top of the ramp turn right to go north on Ridge Road. In 4/10ths of a mile turn left to go west on Holt Road. Drive west on Holt Road for about 1.6 miles until reaching the crossing of the Au Sable Creek. As you approach the creek, you too will see the “line of trees [which] proclaimed a river near.” Eliza goes on to describe that they, “soon dashed through the Au Sable, the horses dancing with joy, as the clear cool waters curled about their feet. The sight of a house upon the opposite bank, seemed quite a novelty, as we had not seen one since leaving Joliet, at nine o’clock, and it was now one.” Although, on our own journey, we had left “the city” at some point after the former site of "Mount Joliet". It is almost unimaginable to think of a time when no homes and no farms existed between Joliet and this point. This is testament to our perception of Eliza’s trip having been made on the cusp of the prairie disappearing under the Euro-American farmers’ plows.

    Eliza goes into detail about the farm at their stage stop and the food they enjoyed. But at this point we will leave her. Her narrative says little about what she saw between the Au Sable and Ottawa other than, “Our afternoon drive from the Au Sable to Ottawa was through a treeless prairie.” She does however indulge in speculation about the nature and possible future of the region, as well as sharing history and geological information. It’s an enjoyable read but we’ve come far enough for one day.

    Read More


    --Maps of Midewin in English & Spanish are available on this app. Click the map button on the bottom green bar.

    --Printable maps are found at the following links:

    In English: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd551074.pdf

    In Spanish: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd594812.pdf

    --A printable brochure containing more information about the trails:

    In English:


    In Spanish:


    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie credit: Bill Glass