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Prairie on display at Saturday event

The Nachusa Grasslands is anything but “dreary,” a term used by a 19th-century English novelist to describe the Illinois prairie. Enjoy a visit to the grasslands during Autumn on the Prairie.

Published: Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 1:46 p.m. CDT

Charles Dickens, the famous British novelist, couldn’t hide his disdain for the Illinois prairie after seeing it during an April 1842 visit to St. Clair County.

“I am exceedingly fond of wild and lonely scenery, ... [but] the prairie fell, by far, short of my preconceived idea. ... The excessive flatness of the scene makes it dreary, but tame,” Dickens wrote.

Too bad Dickens never saw Nachusa Grasslands, a restored prairie habitat 4 miles northwest of Franklin Grove, between Dixon and Oregon.

We doubt “Boz” would find anything dreary amid these 3,000 acres.

Consider what he would see, according to the Nachusa Grasslands website:

– Approximately 750 plant species, from abutilon theophrasti (velvetleaf) to zizia aurea (Golden Alexander).

– Nearly 200 bird species (in season), from the Alder Flycatcher to the Yellow-rumped Warbler.

– Twenty-nine mammals, from the whitetail deer to the masked shrew.

– Nearly 20 fish species, from the bluntnose minnow to the largemouth bass.

– A dozen reptiles, from the snapping turtle to the six-lined race runner, a lizard.

– A cavalcade of butterflies, from Regal Fritillary to Northern Cloudywing.

– Not to mention the waves of prairie grasses, rustling in the breeze.

Dickens never got to see Nachusa Grasslands, but you can.

Autumn on the Prairie will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the grasslands, on Lowden Road between Naylor and Stonebarn roads. The theme is “Bison on the Horizon.”

People can take guided tours of prairie and savannas on foot or by vehicle. Also planned are wagon rides, live music, kettle corn, a children’s tent, and various demonstrations.

Members of The Nature Conservancy and Friends of Nachusa Grasslands have worked like the dickens to restore and preserve the acreage. Take time Saturday to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

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