The more I adventure travel abroad, the more I appreciate the beautiful areas near me in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and across the United States. In our thirst for adventure and a taste of something different, we forget what is in our backyard is just as exotic to someone who lives a thousand miles away as a Wat in Bangkok or a jungle in Guyana is to us.
I remember seeing a couple people in Grant Park in Chicago chasing a squirrel with their camera. This cracked me up, but I am sure when I am in Costa Rica chasing a scarlet macaw or a coati, the locals also probably think it is funny.
Northern Illinois is not place known for adventure and natural beauty, but I have found a few spots that I enjoy hiking. Starved Rock is the obvious and most popular state park in the area, but places like Rock Cut, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area (not to be confused with Goose Island, which is a local beer) are worth a day exploring.
Many consider Illinois to be boring outside of Chicago. The state’s nickname is the Prairie State because at one time over half of the state was covered with prairie. Now less than one percent of that natural prairie remains. In its place lies farmland and cities.
Due to the fact that Illinois is not very pretty and it is called the Prairie State, many consider prairie to be a dull ecosystem. I used to think this growing up, but when you visit places like Midewin, Nachusa Grasslands, and Goose Lake and see places where the natural tallgrass that existed when the settlers arrived here, you realize it is actually quite scenic. This is especially true in the summer when the prairie is ablaze with wildflowers.
While a prairie does not match a forest, lake, or mountains, it has a unique beauty all its own. One of the best parts about a prairie is the opportunity to see over long distances and the prairie is the best place to view cloud formations over the horizon thanks to the lack of trees and other obstructions.
Goose Lake Prairie is actually the largest remnant of natural prairie left in Illinois with over 2,500 acres set aside. The land here was sculpted by glaciers, so along with the prairie, you have rolling hills and glaciated lakes and ponds.
Normally, I take a picture of the entrance sign when I pull into a new park. This time I was greeted by a white-tailed deer alongside the road that preoccupied me from taking a picture of the sign. However, I think he is sticking his tongue out at me in the picture above, so I am not sure how qualified the deer is as official greeter.
There are only 6 miles of trails inside the park, so you can hike the whole system within a couple of hours. Besides the prairie, Heidecke Lake is nearby and is also part of the park, so there are other activities like fishing and boating that can be found there.
Goose Lake tips:
- There is very little shade, so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and water especially during the summer
- There is no camping although there is a picnic area – Camping can be found at other nearby state parks like Starved Rock, Mathiessen, Kankakee River State Park, and Gebhard Woods
- Due to the rolling hills, Goose Prairie does offer cross-country skiing in the winter
- Bring your binoculars – With several ecosystems inside the park it is a great place to view birds including prairie birds like pheasants, bobwhites, and dickcissels, but also water birds like herons, kingfishers, and ducks
- If you are planning to visit the park in the fall, check for closures during the hunting season
- Directions: From I-55 to exit 240 Lorenzo Road/Pine Bluff Road travel west approximately 7.5 miles to Jugtown Road. Turn north on to Jugtown Road and travel 1 mile to entrance on the right side to Goose Lake Prairie State Park, Visitor Center, and park trails.
The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then enter your email in the box to get email notifications for each new entry. Daily travel photos are excluded from your email in order to not flood you with posts. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).
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Great series of the Prairie scenario with happy sky watiching. the lack seems interesting in the pictures.
India Travel Agent recently posted..Hampi: A Historical Paradise on the Earth
Thanks ITA for stopping by.
wow, just 1% left… well, i guess is 1% full then… hopefully they keep Goose Lake protected and also more people come to appreciate its ecosystem.
also, nice touch ending with a sunset. it does make the perfect way to retire after a wonderful day.
stay adventurous, Craig
Craig Zabransky recently posted..A Volunteer’s View from the New York Special Olympics Summer Games held in Buffalo, NY
I knew you would be a fan of the sunset Stay Adventurous. Pretty sad there is only 1% left. Fortunately there are places like Goose Lake and Midewin that not only are protecting that 1%, but also trying to restore some areas.
Wow. Looks lovely. I especially love the photo of the dock going into the water.
Jason’s Travels recently posted..Exploring Lanai’s Kanepu’u Preserve
That is a favorite of mine too.
Gorgeous! Ted – your photos inspire! It is amazing how much natural beauty is in our own back yards!
Anita Mac recently posted..Missing the boat when Spiderman came to town!
Very true Anita Mac. While there is much more in places like Canada and Wisconsin, even good ole’ Prairie State Illinois has a few beautiful places even in the central part of the state.
beautiful photos, ted! I mean it!
@mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Ole! A girls lux weekend in the South of Spain
Thanks Mrs. O!
Wow, beautiful photos! It looks like a lovely place.
Erika recently posted..Free to fall: The Psicobloc Masters Series climbing competition
Yes Erika, and an unlikely place to take scenic pictures. Central Illinois is not a first stop for photographers, but the prairie affords some unique opportunities especially with clouds.
I’m with you on prairie being under-appreciated. I think it has its’ won beauty – and after reading The Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala – a Canadian writer – about life on intact prairie it gave me a new appreciation -plus as you pointed out its a great place to see some interesting bird life. I think you’ve got some lovely photos on this blog too.
Leigh recently posted..A Boat Trip to Bonaventure Island in The Gaspe
I have enjoyed your posts regarding the Canadian prairie. A place I definitely would like to check out.
Beautiful pics! It looks so serene!
lola dimarco recently posted..How to have an Endless Summer…head to the Caribbean!
It is very peaceful Lola. I hardly saw a person all day besides the lawn mower cutting the grass on the trail. That part was not so serene 🙂
I’m with you, Ted. The more I travel abroad, the more I appreciate what’s around me at home. I’m still obsessed with seeing new places and Europe in general, but seeing other places opens my eyes to what’s right in front of me that I may not have noticed or thought special before. Beautiful photos, too.
Leah Travels recently posted..Three Reasons to Go to England and NOT Visit London
Agreed Leah. Sometimes when I see something amazing overseas, I think to myself, we have the equivalent in the States, but it is different. For instance, even something as everyday as a cardinal is going to excite someone who has never seen it more than a local person from Illinois that sees them almost daily. It is great to see exotic things overseas, but it is also good to not take our backyard for granted.
As a fellow Chicagoan, I’m always happy to see IL, MI, and WI on your blog – and find weekend getaway ideas here. This place looks great in your photos. Maybe I’ll make my way over there sometime.
Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: Bookstore in Buenos Aires
You should check out an Illinois prairie park sometime Pola. Midewin, Goose Lake, and Nachusa Grasslands are worth a visit for a day when you don’t have much going on.
Awesome shots…reminds me of an area just north of where I live called Paine’s Prairie. A rare site in Florida.
D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Hotels My Wife Would Love – Me: Not So Much
It pains me to hear that Deej 🙂
Seriously.. how adorable is this place?! And I love the name – Goose Lake Prairie.. like straight out of a book or movie. Can’t say I’ve been to a place like this but would love to.
Kieu Nguyen recently posted..30 years: 30 travel experiences
It is rather a cute place. It is not beautiful although it has some pretty aspects to it, but it definitely is cute.