Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • On the Trail of Eliza Steele

    Midewin in evening credit: Ron Kapala

    At Midewin, we often quote a New York writer named Eliza. In 1840, she wrote about her first glimpses of the Illinois prairie. She published her diary of a six-week, 4,000-mile journey from New York through the frontier of Illinois and to the Mississippi River. Our Heritage Program Manager, Joe Wheeler & volunteers from Midewin decided to find out exactly where she traveled in northern Illinois. Could her steps be retraced? She left names, dates, times of day and many other clues in her writing to do just that. They followed the clues and this tour is the result. We limited our tour to areas surrounding Chicago and Midewin. Take this tour virtually but the roads Eliza traveled are almost all still in existence. Things will look different than the wild frontier she encountered. Few of the wild places Eliza saw are still in existence. She and her husband traveled this portion of their trip by stagecoach. They passed a few miles north of Midewin in 1840. She would have looked south to the horizon onto the undulating prairie of which Midewin belonged. Whether taking Eliza’s journey virtually or in person, make sure to come to Midewin. Walk on a piece of restored prairie. Feel what Eliza did as you walk a trail through the prairie. Glimpse the immense expanse of what was once never-ending land, plant life, and animals. Feel the heat of the sun, the wind against your skin, and the scent of the flowers in the air. Listen to the music of the grass and singing of the insects as the wind blows in the heat of the day. Look out upon the seemingly endless horizon. Eliza would have wanted you to come and experience the prairie for yourself.

    Midewin credit: K.Frazier

    --See the Illinois prairie Eliza immortalized in word. It is still here at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Come and experience what Eliza wrote of as you walk the trails of this prairie.

    --Interested in the roads Eliza's route would take you on today? Go to button 411, to see the modern roads her route used.

    --Read Eliza's whole book. Tap button 410 to find an online link to A Summer Journey In The West.


    Thomas M. Coyne (Historical Research)

    Eric Ulaszek (Botanical Surveys Coordinator, Illinois Natural History Survey; historical botanic research)

    Nick Budde (Forest Preserve District of Will County: Modern Conservation Areas Research)

    Elspeth Stanzil (Narrator)

    Frank Ibarra (Narrator)

    Joe Wheeler (Archaeologist: USDA/Forest Service

    Michelle Pearion (Botanist: USDA/Forest Service)

    Delane Strohmeyer (Maps: USDA/Forest Service)

    Siobhan Solkowski-Peacy (STQRY Writer &Developmental Co-ordinator: USDA/Forest Service)