WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT
Encompassing a narrow run of shoreline along Lake Michigan, Chiwaukee Prairie is a remnant of the past in the midst of urban and commercial development.
Chiwaukee is part of the last unbroken stretch of prairie of its kind in the state and home to more than 400 plant species, including 26 rare plants. More than 75 species of grassland and wetland birds have been observed at Chiwaukee during the breeding season.
There is an informational kiosk at the entrance to the preserve. The preserve is best viewed from the gravel road that goes through the prairie. Please stay on the trail to avoid trampling the prairie. Some parcels of land within the preserve remain in private ownership; we ask that visitors please respect these landowners' property rights.
WHY THE CONSERVANCY SELECTED THIS SITE
Chiwaukee Prairie anchors the north end of the Chiwaukee Illinois Beach Lake Plain, which represents the highest quality remaining coastal area in southeast Wisconsin and in all of Illinois. The prairie encompasses many different types of habitat including wet prairies, calcareous fens, oak openings and sand dunes, which are home to more than 400 plant species and wildlife including more than 75 species of grassland and wetland birds.
In the 1920s, there was a plan to develop the area for luxury homes, a golf course and a beachside hotel with train service from both Chicago and Milwaukee. These plans were abandoned during the Depression, but the land was subdivided and sold in small parcels to hundreds of individuals.
WHAT THE CONSERVANCY HAS DONE/IS DOING
Protection of Chiwaukee Prairie was initiated in 1965 by a dedicated group of local citizens who loved the prairie and wanted to preserve it for future generations. They contacted The Nature Conservancy for help with funding to acquire the more than 300 acres of remaining prairie.
In spring 2015, the Conservancy donated 150 acres at Chiwaukee Prairie to the State of Wisconsin for continued use as a valuable conservation area offering diverse public recreation opportunities in southeast Wisconsin. With the gift of land at Chiwaukee Prairie to the State, the Conservancy also donated a permanent endowment to supplement management costs at the preserve, with the funds to be managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. This gift of land will better enable the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to streamline management across the natural area, particularly the use of prescribed fire to restore prairie and oak savanna habitat.
Local citizens continue to play a critical role in protecting Chiwaukee Prairie. They remove invasive species and help burn the prairie to keep it healthy, raise funds to protect land and spread the word to engage more people in caring for this special place. You can learn more about the Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund at chiwaukee.org.
Today Chiwaukee Prairie is recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service, was designated a Wisconsin State Natural Area in 1967 and as a Wetland Gem by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association in 2009.