Outdoor Safety & Ethics

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In case of emergency at Midewin

Call 911 for medical emergencies.

Otherwise, contact the U.S. Forest Service at (815) 423-6370 or after hours at (815) 263-4060



The prairie at Midewin is still “under construction.”  You will see heavy equipment on the roads and working on demolition, restoration, or crop fields.  Stay away from this equipment – operators may not be able to hear or see you in time to stop.  Some areas may be posted closed during project work.


Tripping hazards

Even the interim trails are rough, and all trail users should beware holes and brush.  Hikers off the trail should also watch out for discarded barbed wire, rusty metal, chunks of concrete, and other debris.


Nuisance plants

Poison ivy and wild parsnip are found in several areas at Midewin and can cause skin irritation if touched.  Also be careful around thorny trees and brush, such as Osage orange and Hawthorne.


Nuisance Insects

Insect repellant is recommended to protect against mosquitoes and ticks. Staying on trails will reduce exposure to ticks, who like to hang out in tall grass and brush and are especially active in spring and early summer. Several commercial insect repellants work quite well. Follow the product directions for application, especially for how often to reapply. Tying or taping your pant legs tight around your ankles so the ticks can't crawl up inside your pants and tucking in your shirt is also recommended. It won't cut down on the number of ticks you might get, but it will make them easier to spot and remove. Light-colored clothing also makes ticks easier to spot. Be sure and wash all clothing promptly when you get home to kill any ticks that might remain.



Cattle are helping maintain grassland bird habitat by keeping grass at the height preferred by different bird species for nesting and feeding.  Some of the cattle at Midewin are as curious about you as you may be about them.  Others are mothers protecting their calves.  Keep your distance from the cows – they’re hard at work.



Midewin is open for spring turkey hunting and for fall deer hunting.  All firearm hunting permits are issued by Illinois Department of Natural Resources lottery.  All non-hunting visitors to Midewin during firearm seasons must stay on the trails.  Check at the Welcome Center or on the Midewin website for current information.


Arsenic contamination

Commercial weed-killing sprays used along security fencelines and railbeds in the 1960s contained high concentrations of arsenic, which remain in the soil in some areas.  Arsenic contamination may not be apparent because of growing vegetation.  Do not disturb the soil at Midewin.



Leave No Trace LogoLeave No Trace

Visit the national Leave No Trace Organization here.

  • Take nothing but pictures….leave with only your memories.
  • Courtesy towards others helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Excessive noise, loose pets, and damaged natural surroundings create a negative atmosphere.
  • Trails are an important part of protecting Midewin's resources. Trails are designed to lessen the impact of traveling, no matter by what means. All horses and bicycles must stay on the trails at Midewin. Cross country travel is not forbidden to hikers, but please remember to spread out when traveling. We don’t want any new trails developing on their own.
  • While traveling on trails keep the noise level down. Radio and tape players do not belong in the back country. If you encountering an equestrian group, you should step off the trail on the lower side and let them pass. Keep the noise level down as horses are spooked easily
  • Keep pets under control at all times. No one wants to have someone’s pet running through the area frightening people and wildlife.
  • Wildflowers, picturesque trees, and unusual rock formations all give back country areas the beauty we came to see. Picking flowers, hacking at trees, and chipping away at rock all can detract from the primitive atmosphere. Please leave them for others to enjoy
  • Don't hang ribbons, signs, or blaze trees to mark a path for others to follow. Always discuss the planned route with your group members to avoid leaving an impact.
  • Federal law prohibits disturbing historical and archeological sites.  Please don’t disturb or remove any objects from our past.