Since the publication of Force of Nature in April 2017, I’ve set out to visit all 400+ Illinois Nature Preserves. As of today, my count stands at 90. Not bad. But after a quick start, I can see that this is more of a life-long quest rather than a hurry-up-and-get-‘er-done kind of thing.
In the meantime, to satisfy my Nature Preserve itch, there are several that I revisit from time to time. This year, I’ve decided to visit Powderhorn Marsh and Prairie as often as I can, to observe the changes throughout the season.
I picked this preserve for a few reasons. It’s the only state-dedicated Nature Preserves within the Chicago city limits, which makes it close to home — less than a 15-minute drive. Secondly, it harbors one of the largest concentrations of threatened and endangered species in Illinois. Finally, and most importantly, the Forest Preserves of Cook County has been doing an amazing amount of restoration at the site. Which. Is. Awesome. Over the winter, they cleared a massive number of trees. I know, I know, to some it can seem counter-intuitive if not crazy to cut down trees in a nature preserve. But the trees that were removed are those that grew up for lack of adequate management in past years.
Early this spring, FPCC conducted a prescribed burn. This, too, is a common restoration technique, which keeps both native and non-native plant species from invading habitat. It also returns nutrients to the soil and clears dead plant material so certain native plants have a better chance to flourish.
Immediately following a burn, the scorched earth does in fact make the preserve look a little grim. But a few weeks later, BAM. BOOM. WOW. Powderhorn is bursting with color. On the ground. In the air, the trees, the water. Enjoy. Better yet, come visit yourself. It’s a glorious time of year to visit YOUR Powderhorn Marsh and Prairie.