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 is located in Will County on State Route 53 between Wilmington and Elwood, and is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

But before there was Midewin, there was the Joliet Arsenal, and before that there were farmers, and before that settlers, and before that Indian tribes, all on land that once was a tallgrass prairie for thousands of years.

Settlers arrived in the 1830s, and our native Americans moved west. The settlers developed an agricultural economy which lasted 100 years. In 1940 the U.S. Army purchased over 36,000 acres of this land to build World War II’s largest arsenal complex, where TNT was manufactured and shells and bombs were loaded.

The Arsenal operated during three wars, World War II, the Korean War, and Viet Nam, before it was no longer considered to be needed by the Army. As plans to surplus the land were considered by the government, various organizations came together to make recommendations on how the land could be best used in the future.

The Illinois Land and Conservation Act of 1995, signed by President Clinton into law in 1996, took portions of that land and established the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, two industrial parks, a county landfill, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The goal for the U.S. Forest Service at Midewin is to restore much of your public land under their jurisdiction to what might have been seen here before the settlers arrived - a tallgrass prairie. Natural and cultural history walk hand-in-hand at Midewin.

Midewin sign at the Supervisor's Office.

For more information about Midewin, visit their website, www.fs.usda.gov/midewin, or call 815-423-6370.