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Places We Protect

Nachusa Grasslands

Illinois

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

TNC’s public preserves in Illinois are open. We ask visitors to follow current health and safety precautions, including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet.

Overview

Description

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 TNC Selected This Site

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

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Enjoy more than 3,500 acres of restored and remnant prairie.

Hours

Open from sunrise to sunset

Highlights

Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) are not allowed.

Explore our work in Illinois

Photos from Nachusa Grasslands

Nachusa Grasslands is home to more than 700 species of native plants and more than 230 species of birds.

A Nachusa Grasslands sign.
An orange Monarch butterfly sits on a flower in a grassy field.
Misty horizon above Nachusa's grassy fields at dawn.
A blanding's turtle sits in a human palm.
A closeup of a blade of switchgrass among a field of switchgrass.
A bison family with a calf stand in a grass field at Nachusa.
Nachusa Visitor Center.
Clouds float above a field at Nachusa at sunrise.
A deer stands in Spiderwort at Nachusa Grasslands.
Prescribed fire burns a patch of grass at Nachusa.

Visit

  • 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.

    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

    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.

  • Volunteer Opportunities

    Please contact Bill Kleiman for volunteer opportunities at Nachusa.

    You can also learn more through Friends of Nachusa Grasslands.

Webinar: The Return of Bison to the Prairie (1:00:16) One-hour webinar on the reintroduction of genetically pure bison to Nachusa Grasslands Preserve in Illinois.

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

Support Our Work in Illinois

You can help us protect plants and wildlife at Nachusa Grasslands and beyond.