Autumn on Prairie draws nearly 1,000 visitors

Visitors were able to get a close look at about half the bison herd at Nashusa Grasslands during a tour Saturday as part of Autumn on the Prairie.

FRANKLIN GROVE — Nearly 1,000 people flocked to the Nachusa Grasslands on Saturday for the return of Autumn on the Prairie.

“The day went very smoothly,” said Bill Kleiman, Nachusa Grasslands project director. “The weather was excellent — sunny and warm, but not hot.”

Nachusa Grasslands is a 4,000-acre preserve consisting of large remnant prairie, woodlands and wetlands being reconnected through habitat restoration, according to the conservancy’s website. It creates “one of the largest and most biologically diverse grasslands in Illinois.”

Autumn on the Prairie drew about 930 visitors and recruited 70 volunteers, Kleiman said.

“That’s pretty high for us,” he said. “We might have had 1,200 five years ago when we first got bison, but getting near 1,000 is a pretty solid number.”

Visitors filled five wagons on rides to look for bison, Kleiman said.

“Frequently, the bison were very close by and people were visibly excited to see them up close,” he said. “We also had hiking tours every half-hour and most of those were full all day long, too.”

There wasn’t really anything new at this year’s event, but they’re always making adjustments to improve Autumn on the Prairie based on feedback, Kleiman said.

About half the bison herd is seen on a wagon tour through the prairie Saturday at the Nachusa Grasslands.
Visitors check out the bison herd Saturday  at  Nachusa Grasslands’ annual Autumn on the Prairie.
A male bison stands guard for the herd at the Nachusa Grasslands on Saturday. The natural area held its annual Autumn on the Prairie on Saturday, offering hikes, educational opportunities and wagon tours of the area.
Hikers traverse the prairie on Saturday during Nachusa Grasslands’ annual Autumn on the Prairie. Visitors hiked, observed bison, and learned about prairie flora and fauna during the event.
Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has six-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards.