Welcome Center

Area Status: Open

Midewin Welcome Center offers a tranquil space with pleasant nature sounds on a recording with colorful interpretive signs that highlight the cultural and natural history of the land. Visitors to the Welcome Center will find out more about Midewin's history and mission and how restoration is occurring.

Those coming to learn about or view the Bison will want to start here to find out more about the Bison Project and explore the bison boxes. There are several displays at the Welcome Center, including Glaciers, Wetland Habitats, Prairie Habitats, Wildlife that Inhabit Wetlands and Prairies, Ghosts of the Prairie and the Timeline of the Midewin Area. The Welcome Center has a variety of programs and tours from April to October. During the winter months we host a "Winter Lecture Series" on nature and conservation related topics, held in the conference room.

Scroll down to "Visitor Programs" for event schedules, program and volunteer day information and, during winter months, the winter lecture series information.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: The Welcome Center is open to the public. You can pick up trail maps, program guides, pocket guides, and other informational brochures about native Illinois prairie species and more. Staff can answer questions about bison, trails, and upcoming programs.
Operational Hours: Mon - Sat: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May to October
Mon - Fri: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. November to April
Area Amenities: Interpretive Site,Accessible,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking
Fees: This is not a fee site.
Open Season: January 1 - December 31
Usage: Light-Medium
Busiest Season: Spring, Summer
Closest Towns: Wilmington, Elwood
Operated By: USDA Forest Service Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Information Center: Email: SM.FS.Midewin_RSVP@usda.gov Phone: 1-815-423-6370

General Information


From the I-80 exit for Wilmington

  • Exit onto Route 53 South
  • Travel south on Route 53 for 13 miles.
  • The Welcome Center will be located on the left/east side of Route 53

From the I-55 exit for North River Road, Exit 241

  • Exit onto North River Road
  • Travel on North River Road for 4 miles.
  • Turn left/north at the stoplight onto Route 53
  • Travel north on Route 53 for 1 mile
  • The Welcome Center will be located on the right/east side of Route 53

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking

Trails meander around the Welcome Center, and surrounding buildings, through display gardens, wetland ponds, and native seed bed.

Fire Information No campfires allowed

Viewing Wildlife

The Welcome Center provides a variety of habitat for wildlife. The ponds provide habitat for wetland dwelling species while the native seedbed and display gardens offer desired conditions for pollinators and arachnids. The pasture surrounding the Welcome Center is used as grazing habitat for cattle and hunting grounds for raptors.

Those coming to learn about or view the Bison will want to start here to find out more about the Bison Project and explore the bison boxes.

The public are welcome to view the bison. However, due to the vast size of the pasture system and rolling topography, spotting bison depends on where they choose to spend their time. Visitors may, or may not, see the animals on any given day because of the herd's location.

For more information about the Bison, and a link to our live viewing camera, visit the Bison Project Area of the website.

Viewing Plants

Three seedbeds, at the Supervisor’s Office, River Road and Chicago Road, provide the native plant seeds from over 100 species of prairie plants to help restore Midewin with native plants.

The Supervisor's Office seedbeds are the smallest of the three native plant seedbeds, with only four rows of native forbs and grasses. The seedbeds were planted in 1997, a year after Midewin was created, and, in addition to providing visitors easier access to view the seedbeds, are also used for seed harvest to support restoration efforts.

These seedbeds are directly across the driveway from the Midewin Supervisor’s Office and Welcome Center and can be visited anytime the office is open.

To learn more about the native plant seedbeds visit our section on Native Seed Production.

Viewing Scenery

The area around Welcome Center and the nearby seedbeds are one of the most convenient locations to see the native plants that occupy Midewin's lands.

Visitor Programs

The Welcome Center provides the main starting point for programs held at Midewin. Programs include various outdoor education and interpretive programs for school groups throughout the year as well as a variety of tours conducted throughout the summer.

Event Schedule - 2023 Schedule of Events TBA

Interpretive Areas

The Welcome Center is surrounded by display gardens and prairies providing interpretive areas for groups or individuals. There is also a small Native Seedbed with an interpretive display sign. An indoor interpretive display can be found inside the Welcome Center.

Visitor Centers

Vistors have access to indoor interpretive displays as well as outdoor displays. At the Welcome Center visitors can sign up for a variety of Midewin tours and view a calender of upcoming events.


Interpretive Site: Interpretive materials are available
Toilets: Flush toilets are available
Parking: Parking is available
Accessible: Building is accessible
Drinking water: Drinking water is available

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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