West Chicago Prairie

West Chicago Prairie

The 358-acre West Chicago Prairie is a one of the region’s premier natural areas.. It contains over 600 species of native plants and animals. Many volunteers invest their time and energy to help protect the ecological health of this rare Illinois ecosystem, offering the Forest Preserve District assistance in caring for the natural area.

West Chicago Prairie is different from other DuPage County forest preserves in that it contains no large picnic areas or fishing lakes. Instead, it offers visitors the unique opportunity to enjoy a tranquil walk through one of the state’s rarest — and richest — prairie ecosystems.

 

Natural Scene

In addition to wetlands and upland oak savannas, the preserve is home to one of the most biologically diverse sites in northeastern Illinois, the 126-acre Truitt-Hoff Nature Preserve. It is one of eight state-designated nature preserves in DuPage County owned and operated by the Forest Preserve District.

The Truitt-Hoff Nature Preserve has historically contained native vegetation from the Northeastern Morainal Division, a section of moraines and related features from the Wisconsin Glacier. In fact, this remnant ecosystem has provided rare and specialized habitats to some 622 plant and animal species, several rare or endangered.

The area is named for Richard Truitt, the former mayor of West Chicago who discovered the site, and Melvern “Mel” Hoff, who donated over 20,000 hours as volunteer site steward to help manage it.

Because state law prescribes that progressive efforts continue to protect and manage the Truitt-Hoff Nature Preserve and surrounding nature preserve land, the District has designed and adopted a detailed natural-areas management plan. It specifies rules that are consistent with the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act and collaborates with joint rules for management of state nature preserves, including the proper use of the area by scientists, educators, and the public.

 

Driving Directions

From Route 59, take Hawthorne Lane west and turn south on Industrial Drive. The entrance is just south of Western Drive.

Trails

Nine linking footpaths meander through West Chicago Prairie. Many connect with the Illinois Prairie Path, which leads outside of the forest preserve and connects with West Chicago’s Reed-Keppler Park.

Because the Truitt-Hoff Nature Preserve and other nature preserve land covers all of West Chicago Prairie Forest Preserve, in accordance with the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act, bicycles and horses are not allowed at the forest preserve.

 

History

In presettlement times, the preserve was prairie, scattering timber and marsh. The land containing the preserve was purchased around 1850 by the Galena and Union Railroad, now the Chicago and Northwestern, and maintained by them until it was sold for development in the 1960s. During the railroad era, a small stockyard was established, and some grazing was apparently allowed throughout what is now the prairie.

The remnant prairie was purchased by the District and the City of West Chicago in 1979. Additional parcels were purchased in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County offers scores of nature-related programs and activities for grownups, kids, families and groups year-round. Click below to register for programs, reserve shelters and campsites or purchase permits, and we'll see you soon!
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