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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: Imagining what our state was like at its birth

Tours of the Nachusa Grasslands during Saturday’s Autumn on the Prairie event will give people of today a good idea what this region looked like 200 years ago when Illinois became the 21st state in the union.

From this visitor center vantage point at Nahusa Grasslands, bison can be seen dotting the landscape off in the distance. The center also has restrooms and water for visitors, and serves as as a starting point for hikes.
From this visitor center vantage point at Nahusa Grasslands, bison can be seen dotting the landscape off in the distance. The center also has restrooms and water for visitors, and serves as as a starting point for hikes.

Illinois is celebrating its bicentennial this year, but have you ever wondered what the Sauk Valley looked like 200 years ago when Illinois was admitted to the union?

Take a drive Saturday to Autumn on the Prairie at Nachusa Grasslands northwest of Franklin Grove, and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

The Sauk Valley was north of the Indian Boundary Line, an east-west line of demarcation that ran through northern LaSalle, Bureau and Henry counties in our region. History tells us the Indian Boundary Line was a border between white settlers and communities to the south and Native Americans to the north.

So by 1818, not much of what we today would call “development” had occurred in our neck of the woods.

Just some Indian villages here and there (the site of today’s Prophetstown, for example), rivers, streams, wetlands, groves of trees, savannas and prairie – lots and lots of prairie.

That prairie, consisting of tall grass as far as the eye could see, is what the Nature Conservancy protects for this generation and future generations to experience and appreciate.

Autumn on the Prairie is the annual celebration of all that Nachusa Grasslands, nearly 4,000 areas of restored tallgrass prairie, has to offer.

It will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the grasslands’ main site, 8772 S. Lowden Road.

There will be guided hiking tours of the prairies, woodlands and wetlands.

There will be riding prairie tours, where people will ride on a trailer through the preserve and, it is hoped, see the bison herd, although organizers say that the bison cannot always be seen from the lanes that traverse that section of the grasslands.

There will be numerous activities, demonstrations and exhibits at the Autumn on the Prairie site. Food will be available for purchase.

A $5 parking fee will be charged, and donations will also be accepted at the Welcome Pavilion and Bison Tours Tent.

If the weather forecast is accurate, Saturday should be a fine day to experience Autumn on the Prairie and view some of the plants, wildlife, butterflies and other insects that call the place home.

It should also be a fine day, if for just a short while, to imagine what this section of the great state of Illinois was like at its birth.

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