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Midewin Prairie

posted May 30, 2019, 3:42 PM by Justin P   [ updated May 30, 2019, 3:42 PM ]
Saturday morning I had breakfast at the hotel and checked out, then drove back to Illinois. My first stop was at the visitor center at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. I spoke with a ranger to get an idea if where I might see the bison. They have a webcam on the prairie and it looked like they were in the north of the pasture, but might be difficult to see. He suggested I hike from the Iron Bridge Trailhead. Before I left, I looked through the scopes they had set up to see a bald eagle nest. I could see one parent in the nest and the other on a nearby tree. A young eagle was also in the nest; he had not yet developed white feathers on his head. Then I made the short drive to the trailhead. Right off the bat, there was a pretty field of golden Alexanders in waves of yellow. I like the name of these. I first hiked the Bison Trail toward the overlook. Near the northwest corner of the pasture was a huge bull. I stopped for a couple pictures of this magnificent beast then continued on. At the southwest bison overlook, I saw a pair of deer but they took off before I could get a picture. I hiked almost back to the visitor center, but turned around when it started to sprinkle. It never really rained, but drizzle most of the way back. The bison was in the same spot so I got a couple pictures under better light. Near the start, I got on Group 63 Trail. The trail is named for a group of bunkers used to store munitions when this was a military facility. Bunker 1 was open and it was nice and cool inside, as the sun had come back out. I took the spur trail back to the start and hiked a short ways along the southern end of the loop. More bunkers were visible from the trail. I also spotted the Bison herd but they were too far away for a picture. Then I finished my hike. Heading west, my next stop was at Matthiesen State Park. Although not as popular as Starved Rock, the parking here was almost full and it was very crowded. I hiked down to the big bridge over the creek at Cascade Falls. The bridge was very muddy so I crossed on the railing. Going upstream, I hiked to the lake and climbed down to the creek below Lake Falls. With the high water, the falls was really flowing. But there were a lot of people here, so I didn't linger too long. With the high water, heading downstream was mostly creek walking. The Giants Bathtub was another very scenic small waterfall. At the end, I climbed back up and continued on the trails. I headed down to the lower dells area, but the trail to Cascade Falls was closed due to flooding. Unfortunately, there's no way to see it from the rim. So I headed back to the car and headed to Peru. After checking into the La Quinta Inn, I took a dip in the pool to relax a bit and then had dinner at Jalapenos.