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Prairie Walk at Garfield Farm Museum Memorial Day weekend

May 24, 2017 10:58AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

The Mill Creek Perched Fen with Skunk Cabbage and Great Angelica

Campton Hills, IL:  The three holidays of summer, Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day,  are a handy way to remember when to see the changing bloom of the prairie. On this Memorial Day weekend’s Saturday, May 27 at 9 am, Jerome Johnson of Garfield Farm Museum’s biologist will lead a 3 hour prairie walk.

Though not as wet as it would have been before settlement, the sedge meadow and Mill Creek Prairie will reveal to hikers the challenges of a prairie landscape for the settlers.. For the novice hiker, discovering that the tall grass of the prairies was not tall until July, the open June prairie would seem easy to cross. However many of northern Illinois’ prairies were wet especially from spring through the first part of summer. As glaciers created a flat landscape, water would pool in the least depressions. Prairie crossings with wagons could quickly become mired down. Even well marked trails after a modest shower became mud pits for several days.

For the next century the “curse” of farming Illinois was ample moisture in spring and fall. Soon after the Civil War, installing drain tile in hand dug ditches leading to the nearest creek was how farmers dried out the land for cropping. The former Haeger Pottery of Dundee, IL actually made its mark by producing immense numbers of clay drainage tiles

Today, in the more populated areas of northern Illinois that one time challenge to settlement and farming is a saving grace provided these water resources are judiciously protected. Whether drawing water from the aquifers, the Fox River or even Lake Michigan, making sure that water stays in these populated areas is critical for long-term water supply.

The Mill Creek Prairie’s sedge meadow and fen are great examples of this precious resource and how the native plants help retain water and allow recharge of the aquifers. Time allowing, a visit to the farm’s 21 year old restored marsh will demonstrate how water pooled in greater amounts where slightly hilly glacial features existed.

This is a moderately strenuous walk that will cover over 1.5 miles of woods, wetlands, and prairie. Appropriate shoes, hats for sun, long pants and socks, and water are recommended as well as one’s favorite insect repellent.  

Reservations are required by calling 630 584-8485 or emailing info@garfieldfarm.org. There is a $6 donation.        

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