Nachusa Grasslands

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

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.

North-central Illinois, near Franklin Grove

The preserve is open from sunrise to sunset

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 3,000 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.


High Speed Chase

Watch a high speed chase between an eagle and a deer.


Watch the video

Watch an interview with Designer Christien Meindertsma as she describes her creation from prairie grasses at the Nachusa Grasslands Preserve.

Watch the video

This video, produced by Friends of Nachusa Grasslands, gives a glimpse of Nachusa through its volunteers' eyes.

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
Bison can be viewed from the public roadsides only. The bison roam 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.

  • Hiking
  • Volunteering

Volunteer Opportunities
Please contact Bill Kleiman at or 815-456-2340 for volunteer opportunities at Nachusa.

You can also learn more through Friends of Nachusa Grasslands.

The Conservancy suggests wearing long pants, sturdy shoes and sun protection. Hiking can be done on or off trails. Currently, there are no bathrooms available.

For information on ADA accessibility and use of OPDMDs, click here.


From Chicago and points east:

  • Take I-88 West (East-West Tollway)
  • Exit at Route 251 North (Rochelle) to Route 38 West (To get on 38 West in Rochelle, you need to follow a few signs due to one-way streets.)
  • Travel through Ashton and into Franklin Grove (approx. 16.5 miles), go two blocks past Casey's gas station and turn right (north) at Daysville Road/1700E (sign: Franklin Creek State Park)
  • Travel 1.5 miles north to Naylor Road/1950 North, then turn left (west) and go 2.2 miles to Lowden Road/1500 East
  • Turn right (north) and go one mile to entrance on left.

From South:

  • Take I-39 to Route 38 West
  • Then, follow previous directions. (Route 38 makes a few turns in Rochelle so follow signs.)
  • From North (I-39):
  • Take I-39, and exit at Route 64
  • Go west towards Oregon, Illinois for 16 miles to Daysville Road/1700 East, which is just before Oregon
  • Go left (south) on Daysville for 2.5 miles to Lowden Road/1500 East (just past LaVigna Restaurant)
  • Turn right and continue southwards on Lowden Road for eight miles (you will pass Flagg and Stonebarn Roads) to entrance, on the west (right) side of the road.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

comments powered by Disqus

Read our guidelines on posting comments


Stay Updated

Learn about the places you love and find out how you can help by signing up for Nature eNews.

I'm already on the list Read our privacy policy

Thank you for joining our online community!

We'll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates, and exciting stories.