Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area
5010 N. Jugtown Rd.
Morris, IL 60450
When Lincoln was
starting in Illinois, those early pioneers describe
the terrain as �a sea of grass with pretty
flowers.� Today, Goose Lake Prairie State Natural
Area displays the prairies that once covered nearly
60 percent of Illinois. Goose Lake Prairie, whose
original 240 acres were purchased by the state in
1969 and which now totals 2,537 acres, is the
largest remnant of prairie left in Illinois.
Buffalo, wolf and prairie chicken once inhabited the
area that is now Goose Lake Prairie.
From I-55 to exit
240 Lorenzo Road/Pine Bluff Road, travel west
approximately 7.5 miles to Jugtown Road. Turn north
on to Jugtown Road and travel 1 mile to entrance on
the right side to Goose Lake Prairie State Park.
Goose Lake Prairie is about 1 mile southwest of the
confluence of the Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers.
More than half of Goose Lake Prairie is a devoted
nature preserve. It also is an important nesting
habitat for endangered species of birds, such as the
upland sandpiper and Henslow�s sparrow.
Goose Lake Prairie
provides tables, grills, shelters, water and toilets
at two picnic areas at Goose Lake Prairie.
Goose Lake Prairie. When ice melted about 14,000
years ago, it formed this flat landscape with its
clay-based soils. The area became part of the vast
prairie grassland that stretched from Indiana to the
Rockies. At one time, the prairie covered over half
of Illinois, earning it the nickname of �The
groups of Native Americans lived northwest of the
area in what is now Morris. Tribes of the Illini
confederation intermittently inhabited the area,
hunting and planting corn, squash and beans. They
and other Native Americans, including the Potawatomi
led by Chief Shabbona, existed with the land, making
few permanent changes.
settlers had to relying on the land for their
livelihoods and made drastic changes to the area.
They planted trees to serve as windbreaks and fences
for their farms; in an effort to gain more farmland.
They drained the 1,000-acre Goose Lake into
non-existence; they removed the underlying clay,
first to make pottery and jugs and later for fire
brick; they mined coal beginning in the 1820s and in
1928 began strip mining the land.
Goose Lake Prairie
State Natural Area is a study in contrasts. Tall
Grass Nature Trail displays the largest stand of
tall grass prairie remaining in Illinois. Marsh Loop
Trail shows the ponds and marshes that resulted from
the 1890 decision by local farmers to drain Goose
Lake. Prairie View Trail takes you to the highest
point in Goose Lake Prairie - a strip mine spoil
mound - and offers a panoramic view of reclaimed
mine areas, prairie and prairie marsh.
Grasses And Flowers
Visiting Goose Lake
Prairie today is much like seeing the Prairie State
as it was 150 years ago. Tall prairie grasses,
including big bluestem, Indian grass and switch
grass, make up 60 percent of the prairie. By far the
tallest of these is prairie cordgrass, commonly
reaching heights of 8 to 12 feet. When you�re near
2-foot-tall northern prairie dropseed, you may get
the sudden urge to see a movie - its seeds smell
like hot buttered popcorn.
flowering plants, known collectively as forbs,
compose the prairie�s other 40 percent. Cream
false indigo, shooting star and violets are the
first to bloom toward the end of April or early May,
while New England asters and goldenrod bring up the
rear of the colorful display in early September.
Autumn is a lovely time on the prairie - some say it
is the prettiest season of the year - as prairie
cord grass, big bluestem, switch and other grasses
turn bronze and gold.
are the order of the day at Goose Lake Prairie.
Animals living here include deer, coyote, red fox,
cottontail rabbit, muskrat, beaver and badger.
Barred owls and red-tailed, Kestrels and marsh hawks
are among the birds of prey you may see. Marsh birds
such as red-winged blackbirds, kildeer, great blue
herons and great egrets might be spotted in the
warmer months, while waterfowl species include
Canada geese, wood ducks, mallards and blue-winged
teals. In addition to the area�s year-round
inhabitants like ringneck pheasants and northern
bobwhites, migrating birds include catbirds, eastern
kingbirds and a variety of warblers.
The marsh is home
to turtles, snakes and frogs, while butterflies
frolic among the flowers each spring and summer.
Rare papaipema moths, previously thought to be
extinct, have been found here.
cabin at Goose Lake Prairie stands as a monument to
the pioneer spirit. The original cabin was built by
John and Agnes Cragg in the late 1830s near Mazon,
10 miles to the southwest. A predecessor to a truck
stop, the Cragg cabin served as a stop on the old
Chicago-Bloomington Teamster Trail. The second story
- which was added to accommodate the Cragg�s six
children, making it one of the first two-story homes
in Grundy County - earned the cabin the nickname of
Goose Lake Prairie
contains over 7 miles of hiking trails including a
floating bridge. is to hit the trails. Prairie View
Trail, with 3.5 miles of moderate hiking, goes
through prairie and farmland. Visible are strip mine
reclamation areas, low-lying marshes and farmland.
Tall Grass Nature Trail is a self-guiding trek that
winds through the prairie and the trail�s
trademark grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass,
which can grow to 8 feet in height.
Depending on the
route you decide to take, the trail can be 1 or 3.5
miles long. One loop offers a hard-packed,
wheelchair-accessible surface. The half-mile Marsh
Loop Trail is located within the nature preserve and
lets you see the effects of a turn-of-the-century
attempt to gain more farmland by draining Goose
Lake: farmers found the drained land, which remained
very wet even after the draining, was suitable only
for grazing livestock, and some acreage couldn�t
even be used for that.
Keep in mind that
one of the major reasons why Goose Lake Prairie
survived was that it was generally far too wet to
plant crops on. The marsh here was helped along by
the decision to drain the lake, and today is home to
all kinds of wetlands wildlife.
available for cross-country skiing in the winter.
Check the visitor center for maps.
Visitor Center -
Interpretive Programs at Goose Lake
Plan on a 30-minute
or so stop at the visitor center, and you will enjoy
your visit to Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area
just a little bit more. A video will acquaint you
with the area, as will the center�s nature
displays. The park interpreter presents different
weekend programs year-round.
Adjacent to Goose
Lake Prairie is the 2,000-acre Heidecke Lake, a
cooling pond for Midwest Generating�s Collins
the lake, which offers fishing and hunting. A boat
launch is available only for those purposes. The do
not allow water skiing, sailboating, swimming or
wading. A concession area offering boat rentals is
near the boat launch.
NOTE: The Illinois
Department of Natural Resources does not charge an
Entrance Fee to any state owned or operated land
with the exception of Wildife Prairie Park and sites
with beaches. Beaches charge a $1 a day per person
for beach use only.
Page 1 of 1