Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Experience the Settler's Prairie for Yourself

Like Kate, you may want to stand in an actual northern Illinois prairie this week and imagine that you are one of Naper's settlers from Ruth by Lake and Prairie. Much of the original prairie has been plowed up or built over, but there are still a few places that are either original or restored.

One of the best places to find original prairie is in very old graveyards. Yes, the settlers long ago dug the holes for graves, but they didn't plow the land, so it continued to grow in the natural way. Conservationists will often collect seeds from old graveyards to help create prairie restorations with native plants.

The Belmont Prairie in DuPage county boasts some original prairie, but there are also some restored areas that are worth a trip. Both the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and Fermi Lab in Batavia have been working on prairie restorations.

If you visit, use all your senses to put yourself in the shoes of the early Illinois settler. What can you smell and hear? How does it feel to walk through such tall grass? How about the bugs? Imagine yourself barefoot, for nearly everyone went barefoot in the summer to save on shoe leather, walking for three days in the July sun.

Now imagine how you would explain hitting the highway in an air-conditioned SUV to Joe and the rest of the group! Our forefathers were certainly a hardy lot!

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