Prairie Reserve in Lake County is large 2,500 acres
so the opportunities for recreation, exploration,
learning, and getting lost in wild nature are abundant.
emerald oasis of prairie, wetlands, and savannas punctuated
by 300-year old oaks, the Reserve includes a 47-acre dedicated
Nature Preserve containing a small virgin prairie that was
only lightly grazed. (Most of the preserve was never even
plowed.) As a result, the prairie and wetlands harbor more
than 150 species of native flowering plants.
in early spring may observe blue-eyed grass and yellow star
grass in blossom, and shooting stars, By mid-summer, marsh
blazing star and marsh phlox are abundant. (Almost all the
Reserve lies within the Bull Creek Watershed, a sub-watershed
of the Des Plaines River.)
nature preserve also harbors a rare graminoid fen, sedge
meadow, and marsh. Here budding botanists can find Riddells
goldenrod, bottlebrush sedge, and grass-of-Parnassus. Six
species of butterflies and moths that survive only in high-quality
remnant communities inhabit the Reserve, as does the lovely
smooth green snake.
Reserve connects to the 667-acre Prairie Crossing conservation
community via 12.5 miles of crushed gravel trails. Pets
on leashes, bikes, and horses are welcome (but you must
bring your own as there are no nearby rental sources).
the Reserve some of which is virgin land while other
parcels are still farmed and Prairie Crossing owe
their existence to the foresight of the Donnelley family
and a band of feisty conservationists who fought to preserve
the natural communities for the benefit of nature and people.
One of them, Victoria Post Ranney, edited the letters of
pioneer landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. She became
a defender of the Midwestern landscape through the study
of Olmsted and Jensen. The
Reserve is owned by a consortium of public and private entities.
Liberty Prairie Conservancy manages the Reserve in its capacity
as steward for the township open space district.
work, including controlled burns and reseeding, prepares
the Reserve to take its place as a vital link in a chain
of preserves stretching from the Wisconsin border to Joliet.
Visitors are likely to see (or hear) woodcocks, great blue
herons, northern harriers, bobolinks, and meadowlarks. When
you spy a rare leopard frog among the wetland reeds, glimpse
a red fox kit in the Indian grass, or gather seed on a workday,
you join the chain.
Prairie Reserve and the offices of Liberty Prairie
Conservancy are 40 miles north of Chicago. From Chicago
by car, take I-94 north to Rte. 137 west to 45 north.
Go 1 mile to Jones Point Rd., turn left into Prairie
Crossing. From the north, take I-94 south to Rte.
120 west to 45 south. At the first stoplight, turn
right and follow the scarecrows to the Farmer's Market.
You can park along the roadway and walk several yards
to the Conservancy farmhouse on your left. By train,
take the Metra Antioch line, exit at the Prairie Crossing/
Libertyville station, walk 1 mile into the Reserve
and through Prairie Crossing to the Conservancy farmhouse.