The 997-acre Fults
Hill Prairie State Natural Area is owned and managed by the Illinois
Department of Natural Resources. Most of this unique natural area
was purchased between 1970 and 1976. From the uplands of Fults Hill Prairie
Nature Preserve to the lowlands of Kidd Lake Marsh State Natural Area, a variety of plants
and animals can be found, some common and some found nowhere else in the
Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve consists of 532 acres of uplands and
includes woodland, prairie and glade communities. It has the largest complex
of high-quality loess hill prairies in Illinois. Prairies once were the
dominant natural community in Illinois. The Illinois Nature Preserve system
was established to give the highest level of protection to the state's
few remaining high quality natural areas; this site was dedicated as a
preserve in 1970. In 1986 it was recognized federally by the U.S. Department
of Interior as a National Natural Landmark.
Lake State Natural Area is an example of the once expansive wetlands of
the Mississippi floodplain known as the American Bottoms. The marsh historically was part of an 800-acre lake bed, and once was home to a variety
of wetland birds, some now rare in Illinois. It is an important rest stop
for migrating waterfowl and continues to provide critical habitat to a
diverse range of birds, as well as amphibians and reptiles.
Visitors are welcome, but please help protect the area by not disturbing
or removing anything. All natural features are protected by law.
Guide - Fults Hill Prairie
Spring woodland wildflowers in bloom from March to early May include bloodroot, spring
beauty, bellwort, false Solomon's seal, toothwort, may apple, Dutchmans
breeches, trout lily, wild geranium, wild columbine, phlox, violets, bluebells and Jjack-in-the pulpit.
Sighted during spring migration are Tennessee, Kentucky, blue-winged,
yellow-winged, yellow-rumped, black-and-white,
prairie, worm-eating warblers, American redstart, rose-breasted grosbeak and wood thrush.
Prairie wildflowers blooming in early summer include false boneset, blue hearts,
pale purple coneflower, flowering spurge, prickly pear cactus, hairy petunia,
rose verbana, butterfly milkweed, spiderwort, tickseed coreopsis and mountain
Prairie plants blooming mid to late summer are big bluestem, little bluestem,
side-oats gramma, Indian grass, sky blue aster, silky aster, partridge
pea, white prairie clover, purple prairie clover, rough blazing star,
goldenrod, pale purple coneflower, Missouri orange coneflower, rattlesnake
master and flowering spurge.
For a spectacular fall color display from mid to late October take a drive down Bluff Road,
taking time to look overhead at turkey vultures, often seen in groups of five or six. With a large wingspan and
gliding with their wings in a "v" shape, these scavengers are easily recognized.
Also seen overhead from September trough November are migrating hawks such as red-tailed, broad-winged, Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks and osprey and northern harriers.
In winter months, take time to locate tracks of
deer, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, squirrels and possibly coyote and fox in the snow.
From late January to mid-February you sometimes can see bald
eagles, which have migrated south during the winter, soaring above. Views of eagles are especially inspiring from the bluff top.
Guide - Kidd Lake
Listen for male frogs looking for mates in early spring make a
lot of noise on warm humid nights. Occurring at Kidd Lake Marsh are the western chorus frog (sounds like running
a finger along a comb), northern spring peeper (high-pitched, repetitive
peep), American toad (high-pitch, extended trill), southern leopard frog
(cackle-like call), and bullfrog (deep, mournful call "glu-ub, glu-ub").
Identifiable plants in the wetland are cattails, lotus,
smartweeds, cordgrass, river bulrush, false aster and arrowleaf.
Scope out the wetland for birds such as great blue herons, little blue herons, great egrets, sora and
When the fall migration starts, Kidd Lake Marsh wil hold flocks of Canada geese, snow geese, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal,
mallards, wood ducks and gadwall.
Those dome-shaped mounds dotting the marsh are muskrat houses. Aquatic mammals smaller than a beaver and having a rat-like tail are mostly vegetarian, but also eat clams, frogs and fish on occasion. Muskrat
houses are made of wetland plants, and each is home to one family.
A hill prairie is
an opening on a forested slope, usually a south- or west-facing bluff.
Loess is a term for the type of dry, well-drained soil found along many
portions of the bluffs of the Mississippi River. This loess soil layer
resulted from a fine silt that was blown up from the floodplain and deposited
on the bluffs over hundreds of years.
Certain plants are adapted to the harsh, dry conditions of the loess hill
prairies, creating unique communities at these sites. Grasses such as
side-oats gramma, little bluestem, big bluestem and Indian grass dominate.
Wildfires once helped maintain these open areas, preventing trees from
taking over. DNR now manages hill prairies using controlled burns to mimic
that historically natural process.
Open, prairie-like areas on more shallow soils with extensive limestone
outcropping, are called limestone glades. Vegetation on glades is sparser and
shorter than on a prairie. Dominant glade grasses are little
bluestem and side-oats gramma. Common forbs include American aloe, purple
prairie clover, false boneset and Missouri orange coneflower. Some of
the characteristic glade plants are more typical of the Missouri Ozarks
and are limited in Illinois to this preserve. The "Lost Glades"
were not actively managed by fire and other brush control techniques until
the early 1990s and have become dominated by trees.
The forests of this preserve are mostly on dry sites, with black oak,
post oak and black hickory the dominant species. Forests of the ravines have more moisture
and contain white oak, red oak, chinquapin oak, sugar maple and hickories.
In dry upland areas, such as those surrounding the "Lost Glades"
and loess hill prairies,savanna communities once existed. A savanna
is an open woodland with a thin, scattered distribution of trees, primarily
oak species, and a mixture of grasses. You can spot these areas by looking
for oaks with large, spreading limbs that indicate they did not competewith other trees as they grew.
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity,
Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.