Bison grazing at Nachusa Grasslands.
Nachusa Grasslands Bison graze high-quality prairie restored and protected by TNC staff and volunteers. © Charles Larry

Places We Protect

Nachusa Grasslands


Nachusa Grasslands, which reintroduced bison to the prairie in October 2014, is one of the Conservancy's greatest ongoing success stories.

Nachusa News: Endangered Bee Spotted in Prairie Planting

Un-bee-lievable! A researcher at Nachusa Grasslands spotted a rusty patched bumble bee, which is a federally- and state-endangered species.  The bee was discovered in a prairie planting, which shows that Nachusa’s prairie restoration efforts are thriving and providing habitat for wildlife.

As pollinators, bumble bees are a keystone species group that help wildflowers reproduce, which in turn provide seed and fruits for other species. Rusty patched bumblee bees were once abundant across 28 states, have plummeted due to loss of habitat, disease, a changing climate and other factors. Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover, and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Thanks to the Friends of Nachusa Grasslands for funding the grant that made this research possible!

Why You Should Visit

Blanding’s turtles and many other uncommon or rare animals call Nachusa home. Grassland birds — including grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels and Henslow’s sparrows — perch in the colorful prairie grasses, alongside the state’s largest populations of federally-threatened prairie bush clover. And in October 2014, bison returned to Nachusa. In total, the preserve is home to 700 native plant species and 180 species of birds.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

In 1986, recognizing Nachusa offered the best opportunity in the state to restore a large and diverse grassland, the Conservancy purchased the core of the preserve. So far, more than 3,500 acres have been protected at Nachusa Grasslands through acquisition or conservation easements.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Staff and volunteers from throughout the region work together to preserve and restore Nachusa. Volunteers have donated more than 200,000 hours of labor to the restoration and management of this marvelous example of prairie grassland. These specially-trained volunteers help the Conservancy conduct controlled burns, monitor wildlife, stop the spread of harmful, non-native species and harvest thousands of pounds of seed every year. They help harvest more than 2,500 pounds of seed from the many remnant habitats on the preserve. The seed is used for future prairie plantings and restorations.

Nachusa's Bison

We receive many inquiries from visitors interested in seeing Nachusa's bison herd. Please note: The bison can be viewed from the public roadsides only. The herd roams across 1,500 acres of rolling land and are often not visible from the road. Binoculars are helpful. No hiking is permitted inside the fenced bison unit. The other units of the preserve are open dawn to dusk for hiking.

What to See: Plants

Nachusa features steep sandstone outcrops descending into rocky meadows and streams. The state's largest population of federally-threatened prairie bush clover is found here. Four other species at Nachusa are candidates for federal listing: fame flower, Hill's thistle, kittentails and forked aster. Many other plants that are rare in Illinois survive at Nachusa, including downy yellow painted cup.

What to See: Animals

Scientist Ron Panzer conducted one of the world's first successful reintroductions of the rare gorgone checkerspot butterfly here at Nachusa. The butterflies were rescued from prairie fragments that were lost to development and transported to Nachusa, where they have an improved chance of long-term survival.

Grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels and Henslow’s sparrows can be seen perched in the colorful prairie grasses. Badgers and other Illinois wildlife that need a lot of space are also plentiful at Nachusa Grasslands.

Nachusa's Bison

The bison roam across 1,500 acres of rolling land and may not always be visible. Binoculars are helpful. No hiking is permitted inside the fenced bison unit. The other units of the preserve are open dawn to dusk for hiking.

Stop By the Visitor Center

When you arrive at the Center, follow a gentle slope to a pavilion featuring exhibits that tell the story of Nachusa. From there, you can hike around the Center, or drive to one of five trailheads and explore.  

What to Bring

The Conservancy suggests wearing long pants, sturdy shoes and sun protection. Cold, potable water is available at the Visitor Center.  Two self-composting restrooms are also available at the Visitor Center.

Volunteer Opportunities

Please contact Bill Kleiman for volunteer opportunities at Nachusa.

You can also learn more through Friends of Nachusa Grasslands.