About Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the first national tallgrass prairie and, at 20,000 acres, the largest piece of contiguous open space in northeastern Illinois. 

Midewin was established in 1996 on the former Joliet Arsenal. It is currently a "prairie under construction" as staff and volunteers restore the land from war plants to prairie plants. There are many ways for you to enjoy these public lands through hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, hunting, and volunteering. 

Details about Midewin’s history are available on the U.S. Forest Service official website on the About The Forest Webpage and on the Midewin Heritage Association Website (Under Construction).

Midewin is located in Will County on State Route 53 between Wilmington and Elwood. The Welcome Center at the Midewin Supervisor’s Office on Route 53 is the best location to stop for information. Even when the Welcome Center is closed, there are trail maps available outside the building.

The natural environment at Midewin is already wondrous and grows more so each year as restoration progresses. Restored native habitats support nearly 600 plant species, including some rare and endangered species on dolomite prairie. Monarch butterflies feed on Midewin’s several milkweed species, and birdsfoot violet, prairie violet and arrow leaf violet have been planted to re-establish the Regal Fritillary, the quintessential prairie butterfly. Bird watchers also have much to see at Midewin, which is home to 172 bird species including the endangered upland sandpiper, loggerhead shrike, and Henslow’s sparrow. Waterfowl are attracted to the many wetlands scattered through the mosaic of wildlife habitats occurring at Midewin.

To see these wonders, you must use your feet, a bicycle, or a horse and choose from over 34 miles of trails that are open every day of the year from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. When snow covers the trails in winter, the trails are also open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Consult the current Trail Map for ideas or visit the Welcome Center to talk with a host about the best options for your day and your family.  

A variety of tours, walks and rides, programs, kids’ activities, and lectures are offered at Midewin throughout the year. For the most current schedule, go to Midewin’s Current Calendar of Events.

Volunteers and partners are fundamental participants in planning for and managing Midewin. The very idea of Midewin was a grass roots concept that grew to include the Forest Service. Today, hundreds of volunteers and organizations, clubs, companies, and groups are helping achieve the vision of Midewin as a restored native landscape where people can enjoy and learn in the outdoors.

Individual volunteers bring a wonderful diversity of skills and knowledge that enhance native seed production, trail construction and maintenance, environmental education, heritage projects, and many other activities. If you are interested in volunteering at Midewin, visit the Volunteering webpage on Midewin’s website for information.