Illinois, “the prairie state,” once contained an estimated 22,000,000 acres of its dominant plant community type, native prairie. After the invention of the self-scouring steel plow in 1837, the rich prairie soils quickly were converted into some of the most fertile cropland in the world. By 1976 it was estimated that only 2,352 acres of high-quality native prairie remained in Illinois, about 1/100th of 1 percent of the original acreage. Much of that prairie occurs along Illinois’ roadsides between roadways and railroads, due to protection from cultivation and other disturbances. Prairie communities are of special concern in Illinois because of their rarity, species diversity, and vulnerability to habitat degradation. At the direction of IDOT’s Bureau of Design and Environment, an inventory of native Illinois roadside prairie remnants was conducted by botanists from the Illinois Natural History Survey during the field seasons of 2001-2003. The area surveyed occurred where roadways and railroad lines (both active and abandoned railroads) occurred within four hundred feet of each other. Results of the inventory are found below in the form of maps and text. The type of information collected for each site included its location, quality, size, distance from edge of pavement, and species list.
Instructions for Use
Find the county of interest in the list below. Click on the corresponding District to view the appropriate map and report. (*Note – These maps and reports were created prior to IDOT’s re-districting) First open the map and record the number adjacent to any of the identified prairie remnants. Then open the corresponding report to find specific information associated with that remnant. GIS data is also available at the bottom of this page.
Prairie Inventory Reports