Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is 60 miles southwest of Chicago. It's 18,225 acres in size and located near the towns of Elwood and Wilmington along Illinois Route 53 (formerly the famous Route 66). This prairie land started its transformation to farmland in the 1830's. The land that is Midewin was purchased from local farmers in 1939 by the United States Army to develop and run an ammunition plant during World War II and beyond. In 1996, the land was transferred to the United States Forest Service. It is the first national tallgrass prairie in the United States. The restoration of this land to native habitats continues today.
As restoration carries on, this renewing prairie is perfect for biking, hiking and horseback riding on its trail. Viewing of prairie plants, 234 species of birds, and mammals is a common pastime by visitors. Photographers also find this an enchanting place to ply their skills. In 2015, a herd of bison were introduced to 1,200 acres of fenced pasture. The bison are part of a project to determine the effects of grazing patterns on the restoration of the tallgrass ecosystem and grassland bird habitat. Visitors love to try their luck at viewing these amazing creatures.
This is also the home base for the Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew. They are a team of wildland fire fighter for the United States Forest Service. They are the only Hotshot Crew based in this region of the country.