Conservation and Outdoors Enthusiasts Kicked Off Spring at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie during Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Days Celebration

Release Date: May 10, 2017   WILMINGTON, Ill.

Contact(s): Veronica Hinke

Hundreds of conservation and outdoors enthusiasts kicked off spring together at the USDA / U.S. Forest Service’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie on Saturday, May 6. Midewin provided a full day of festivities to welcome spring and new life – including some newborn bison calves.

The Midewin bison herd looked on during a very special commemorative seed broadcast that closed out the day at 4 p.m. in the Iron Bridge Prairie. Dozens of Midewin visitors came together and cast handfuls of little bluestem seeds onto newly cultivated soil. The community-wide planting activity marked a new season and celebrated life – past, present and future – along this section of old historic Illinois Route 66.

The seed broadcast allowed visitors the opportunity to join in on some of the work that volunteers, partners and staff are doing, every day at Midewin, to re-introduce 275 different species of native Illinois prairie plants.

“As we welcomed spring and celebrated life, past present and future, it really was just incredible to be with so many people who care so deeply about the land,” said Midewin Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang. “People from nearby and far away came together and we all planted grass seed together – from a single bucket of seeds. This community-strong effort was the perfect way to kick off the 2017 season, and it was a day I will remember for a long, long time.”     

The little bluestem seed broadcast brought people together to plant alongside Spang, Midewin Ecologist Bill Glass, Midewin Archaeologist Joe Wheeler and Midewin Heritage Association President and Midewin volunteer Lorin Schab.

Just before the broadcast, Glass quoted from diary of Eliza Steele, a young pioneer woman who traveled through the Joliet area on a stagecoach on her way out West in the 1800s. In 1840, Steele’s reactions to seeing a prairie for the first time were published in a book, "Summer Journey in the West." A special copy of the book is on display for viewing in the Midewin Welcome Center.  

Steele wrote: "A world of grass and flowers stretched around me, rising and falling in gentle undulations. We passed whole acres of blossoms all bearing one hue, as purple perhaps, or masses of yellow or rose; and then again a carpet of every color intermixed, or narrow bands, as if a rainbow had fallen upon the verdant slopes."

Schab led three guided history walks throughout the day. He showed guests around the historic land and talked about what life was like along Route 66 during its heyday. He talked about the early settlers who lived along the road that became Route 66.


Midewin volunteer Janine Catchpole led nature walks. She showed visitors native Illinois spring blooms. They saw golden alexanders, bluebells prairie trilliums, shooting stars and more.


Over 20 Midewin stakeholders, federal partners and neighbors came together in an Open House program that was held under an open-air tent near the Iron Bridge Prairie. They talked with guests, and each other, alongside informational displays.  


Guests were able to get up close with live peregrine falcons and they saw demonstrations by a wildlife painter and a spinner who makes hats, mittens and other items using bison hair. Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl posed for photos.   


Programs, events and tours continue throughout the season at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Events are listed online in the 2017 Midewin Program Guide:


Ranger Hikes leave from the Iron Bridge Trailhead every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. The hikes last approximately 30 minutes.


For more information see:

or follow updates on Twitter: (@MidewinNatTP) or on Facebook: (@Midewin).

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