Places We Protect

Nachusa Grasslands


A small herd of bison graze at Nachusa Grasslands.
Nachusa Grasslands Bison graze high-quality prairie restored and protected by TNC staff and volunteers. © Charles Larry

Consisting of 4,000 acres of restored, remnant prairie, Nachusa Grasslands is home to 180 species of birds, more than 700 native plant species and a herd of bison.



Nachusa Grasslands is a nature preserve made up of restored and remnant prairie located about two hours west of Chicago. TNC purchased the core of the preserve in 1986, recognizing that Nachusa offered the best opportunity in the state to restore a large and diverse grassland. So far, more than 4,000 acres have been protected at Nachusa Grasslands through acquisition or conservation easements.

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.



Pets and Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) are not allowed at Nachusa.


Open from sunrise to sunset


Visitors can enjoy hiking, birdwatching and viewing bison herds across Nachusa's 4,000+ acres of restored and remnant prairie.

Explore our work in Illinois

Photos from Nachusa Grasslands

Visitors can see bison roam and birds flutter amongst Nachusa's rolling hills, vibrant meadows and tranquil streams.

A Nachusa Grasslands sign.
An orange Monarch butterfly sits on a flower in a grassy field.
People at Nachusa.
A bison family with a calf stand in a grass field at Nachusa.
A closeup of a blade of switchgrass among a field of switchgrass.
Nachusa Visitor Center.
A deer stands in Spiderwort at Nachusa Grasslands.
Prescribed fire burns a patch of grass at Nachusa.
A blanding's turtle sits in a human palm.
Misty horizon above Nachusa's grassy fields at dawn.
Volunteer to Protect Nachusa Grasslands (4:25) Are you interested in preserving habitat for native plants and animals? Volunteer through our partners at the Friends of Nachusa Grasslands, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2008 by volunteers dedicated to providing for the long–term care and management of Nachusa Grasslands.




    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.


    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.

  • TNC 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. Pets are not allowed at the preserve.

    The use of Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMD)s (utility vehicles, ATVs, Segways, golf carts, etc.) on this property has been assessed in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. OPDMDs are prohibited.

  • Learn about volunteer opportunities through Friends of Nachusa Grasslands. Workdays also take place on most Thursday and Saturdays.

    You may also contact Bill Kleiman for volunteer opportunities at Nachusa.

20 Years of Tallgrass Prairie Restoration (3:16) Dr. Elizabeth Bach with The Nature Conservancy provides an overview of plant community responses to ecosystem restoration at the Nachusa Grasslands preserve.

Support Our Work in Illinois

You can help us do important conservation work at Nachusa and beyond.

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Current Conservation Work

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 TNC 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.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map