Located in Grundy County, Goose Lake Prairie is approximately 50 miles southwest of Chicago and 1 mile southwest of the confluence of the Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers. More than half of Goose Lake Prairie is a dedicated nature preserve, protected by law for future generations from any change to the natural environment. It contains dry-mesic, wet-mesic and wet-prairie community types.

Early settlers to Illinois referred to this region as ?a sea of grass with pretty flowers.? Today, Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area serves as testimony to the prairies that once covered nearly 60 percent of the state.

Goose Lake Prairie was sculpted by glaciers. The flat landscape with its clay-based soils was formed as the last vast sheets of ice melted more than 14,000 years ago. The area became part of continuous grassland that stretched from Indiana to the Rockies. Goose Lake Prairie, whose original 240 acres were purchased by the state in 1969, is one of the largest remnants of prairie left in Illinois.

Settlers drained the 1,000-acre Goose Lake, removed the underlying clay, 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 a large remnant of tallgrass prairie. 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 and offers a panoramic view of reclaimed mine areas, prairie and prairie marsh.

Ornithological Summary

Goose Lake Prairie has provided habitat for breeding Henslow?s Sparrow since the early 1970s. Also documented breeding within the natural area are Sora, Virginia Rail, King Rail, Sandhill Crane, Common Moorhen, Northern Harrier, Least Bittern, American Bittern, Pied-billed Grebe and Sedge Wren. Breeding birds have been monitored continuously at Goose Lake Prairie since 1987. Additionally, breeding bird populations at this site were studied in 1973-1974 and in 1982. Ornithologists hope to continue to gather data each year on the breeding birds of Goose Lake Prairie.

This site was chosen as an IBA because it met the criteria for the American Bittern, King Rail, Wilson's Snipe, Sedge Wren, Least Bittern, and Henslow's Sparrow.

The Sedge Wren is on Audubon's Watch List of Birds of Conservation Concern.

Wilson's snipe is a representative of a rare of unique habitat. Wilson's snipe is an indicator of quality of haibtat.

Conservation Issues

Crown vetch and purple loosestrife are invading the area and being kept under control by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Woody enchroachment has been a problem in the past, but is also being kept under control.


The area is relatively flat prairie with intermittent prairie potholes. Soils are mainly silt loam or silty clay loa over shale, sandstone or limestone.

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