The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established in 1996 on the former Joliet Arsenal. It is the first national tallgrass prairie in the country and one of the newest units of the National Forest System.
Midewin represents a major effort to restore 20,000 acres of farmland and industrial land to a unique American landscape and the complex ecology of the prairie. Its mission also includes providing education and recreation opportunities. All of Midewin’s programs and progress are thanks to the support of hundreds of volunteers and partner agencies, businesses, and organizations.
Midewin (pronounced mi-DAY-win) is a Potawatomi word, honoring the Native Americans who long historically occupied this area. “Midewin” is the name for their “Grand Medicine society,” a group that both healed individuals and kept the greater Potawatomi society in balance. The Midewin society’s purpose in healing and balance represented our hopes for the new prairie.
Public access to Midewin was restricted during the Army’s cleanup of contaminants remaining from decades of munitions manufacture, but the first 5,000 acres opened in 2004. Today, the Army cleanup is complete and 7,200 acres of Midewin and 22 miles of trails are open to the public for nonmotorized recreation. Midewin will remain a “prairie under construction” for many years to come.
Midewin is also the largest open space in the Chicago metropolitan area and northeastern Illinois. Even while ecological restoration is underway, it offers respite from the urban world and an opportunity to be immersed in a unique landscape within an hour’s drive of downtown Chicago.
Explore our website and visit us to learn more.
Size: 18,225 acres (as of January 2010)
Click here for directions to Midewin.