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Illinois State Parks

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USA Parks
Northern Region
Goose Lake Prairie State Park
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Goose Lake Prairie State Park Goose Lake Prairie © Barb Dongas
View from the path
Goose Lake Prairie State Park caterpillar © james bokus
snake on thee trail
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park pond scum © james bokus
from a marsh along the trail
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park lone prairie © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park dennis © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park spider © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park weevil © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park hummingbird moth © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © Pamela L. Ridgley
Goose Lake Prairie State Park blizzard of 2010 © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park determined © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park hanging on © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park Japanese Beetle © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park mocking me © james bokus
bee in the apple trees
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
Goose Lake Prairie State Park © james bokus
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5010 N. Jugtown Rd.
Morris, Illinois   60450

Phone: 815-942-2899
Reservations: 815-942-2899
Email: park email button icon
Early settlers to Illinois, in an attempt to describe the unfamiliar terrain they were encountering, referred to it as ?a sea of grass with pretty flowers.? Today, Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area serves as testimony to the prairies that once covered nearly 60 percent of the state.

Located in Grundy County, Goose Lake Prairie is approximately 50 miles southwest of Chicago and 1 mile southwest of the confluence of the Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers. More than half of Goose Lake Prairie is a dedicated nature preserve, protected by law for future generations from any change to the natural environment. In addition to furnishing a look into Illinois? past, the prairie provides important nesting habitat for endangered or threatened species of birds, such as the upland sandpiper and Henslow?s sparrow.
Nature of the Area
Grasses And Flowers:

Visiting Goose Lake Prairie today is much like seeing the Prairie State as it was 150 years ago. Tall prairie grasses, including big bluestem, Indian grass and switch grass, make up 60 percent of the prairie. By far the tallest of these is prairie cordgrass, commonly reaching heights of 8 to 12 feet. When you?re near 2-foot-tall northern prairie dropseed, you may get the sudden urge to see a movie - its seeds smell like hot buttered popcorn.

Broad-leaved flowering plants, known collectively as forbs, compose the prairie?s other 40 percent. Cream false indigo, shooting star and violets are the first to bloom toward the end of April or early May, while New England asters and goldenrod bring up the rear of the colorful display in early September. Autumn is a lovely time on the prairie - some say it?s the prettiest season of the year - as prairie cord grass, big bluestem, switch and other grasses turn bronze and gold.


Wildlife sightings are the order of the day at Goose Lake Prairie. Animals living here include deer, coyote, red fox, cottontail rabbit, muskrat, beaver and badger. Barred owls and red-tailed, Kestrels and marsh hawks are among the birds of prey you may see. Marsh birds such as red-winged blackbirds, kildeer, great blue herons and great egrets might be spotted in the warmer months, while waterfowl species include Canada geese, wood ducks, mallards and blue-winged teals. In addition to the area?s year-round inhabitants like ringneck pheasants and northern bobwhites, migrating birds include catbirds, eastern kingbirds and a variety of warblers.

The marsh is home to turtles, snakes and frogs, while butterflies frolic among the flowers each spring and summer. Rare papaipema moths, previously thought to be extinct, have been found here.

Heidecke Lake:

Adjacent to Goose Lake Prairie is the 2,000-acre Heidecke Lake, a cooling pond for Midwest Generating?s Collins Station.

The lake, which is managed by the state, offers fishing and hunting. A boat launch is available only for those purposes; water skiing, sailboating, swimming or wading is not allowed. A concession area offering boat rentals is near the boat launch.
History of the Area
Goose Lake Prairie was sculpted by glaciers. The flat landscape with its clay-based soils was formed as the last vast sheets of ice melted more than 14,000 years ago. The area became part of a continuous grassland that stretched from Indiana to the Rockies.

At one time, well over half of Illinois was covered with prairies, earning it the nickname of ?The Prairie State.? Goose Lake Prairie, whose original 240 acres were purchased by the state in 1969 and which now totals 2,537 acres, is the largest remnant of prairie left in Illinois. Buffalo, wolf and prairie chicken once inhabited the area that is now Goose Lake Prairie.

Mound-building groups of Native Americans lived northwest of the area in what is now Morris. Tribes of the Illini confederation intermittently inhabited the area, hunting and planting corn, squash and beans. They and other Native Americans, including the Potawatomi led by Chief Shabbona, existed with the land, making few permanent changes.

Settlers, relying on the land for their livelihoods, made drastic changes to the area: they planted trees to serve as windbreaks and fences for their farms; in an effort to gain more farmland, they drained the 1,000-acre Goose Lake into non-existence; they removed the underlying clay, first to make pottery and jugs and later for fire brick; they mined coal beginning in the 1820s and in 1928 began strip mining the land.
 Hiking Trailyes
 Swimming Beachyes
BoatingLaunch Rampsyes

Work up an appetite along the trails, then stop for a bite to eat. Tables, grills, shelters, water and toilets are provided at two picnic areas at Goose Lake Prairie.
One of the best ways to experience Goose Lake Prairie is to hit the trails. With 7 miles of hiking trails including a floating bridge, you?ll have ample opportunity for viewing the plants and animals that make the area unique.

Prairie View Trail, with 3.5 miles of moderate hiking, goes through prairie and farmland. Visible are strip mine reclamation areas, low-lying marshes and farmland.

Tall Grass Nature Trail is a self-guiding trek that winds through the prairie and the trail?s trademark grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass, which can grow to 8 feet in height.

Depending on the route you decide to take, the trail can be 1 or 3.5 miles long. One loop offers a hard-packed, wheelchair-accessible surface. The half-mile Marsh Loop Trail is located within the nature preserve and lets you see the effects of a turn-of-the-century attempt to gain more farmland by draining Goose Lake: farmers found the drained land, which remained very wet even after the draining, was suitable only for grazing livestock, and some acreage couldn?t even be used for that.

Keep in mind that one of the major reasons why Goose Lake Prairie survived was that it was generally far too wet to plant crops on. The marsh here was helped along by the decision to drain the lake, and today is home to all kinds of wetlands wildlife.

Trails are available for cross-country skiing in the winter. Check the visitor center for maps.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
March 20 tall grass prairie early spring and fall by Coal City Chitty Bang Bang
park review stars; one to five This prairie grass park is one of the best?if not THE best?of its kind in the State of Illinois. Stands of tall grass species can be seen. The Visitor Center has an elevated viewing area in back. Also, the trail located on the West side has a bench on a hill with a view. There is a down side: the tick season during Summer?but no ticks well into May. Spring and Fall have good prairie walks on cool days.
August 22 A great example of a true prairie! by William Near Chicago
park review stars; one to five This is an example of what a true prairie should be. This is a must see prairie. A great place for the family and for the nature photographer.
September 15 Spectacular by Todd
park review stars; one to five One of my favoriate places to visit. Its natural beauty is second to none.
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Area Campgrounds
Fossil Rock Recreation Area
24615 West Strip Mine Road
Wilmington, IL
Area Accommodations (over 20 miles away)
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Cottages and Cabins
Within a 10 minute drive from Starved Rock and even closer to Matthiessen State Parks you will find a gorgeous, tranquil property with spacious cabins on 50 wooded acres. All with full kitchens and outdoor fire pits. 3 dog friendly.
40 miles from park*
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Relax in the rustic beauty and comfort of Starved Rock Lodge, Cabins and Starved Rock Inn. The historic Lodge has 69 guest rooms, which include three bay-window rooms, plus cabins nestled in the woods. Fireplaces can be found in four of the eight sunset cabins near the pool area...
35.6 miles from park*
Nearby Hotels

From I-55 to exit 240 Lorenzo Road/Pine Bluff Road travel west approximately 7.5 miles to Jugtown Road. Turn north on to Jugtown Road and travel 1 mile to entrance on the right side to Goose Lake Prairie State Park, Visitor Center, and park trails.

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Illinois State Parks