Orland Grassland

open grassland at Orland Grassland
Photo by Jeanne Muellner.

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Locations & Things to Do

Orland Grassland Land and Water Reserve

Illinois Nature Preserve: This land is designated as one of the highest quality natural areas in the state by the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. This status includes increased levels of legal protection and management. Learn more on the Illinois Nature Preserves Page.

Hours

Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset

Closures & Alerts


Orland Grassland-South

Entrance

104th Ave, south of 179th St
Cook County, IL 60467
(near Orland Park)

Hours

Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset

Closures & Alerts


Paved trail at Orland Grassland. Photo by Andrew Dunning.
Prairie Walk” by Andrew Dunning is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 / Cropped from original.

Orland Grassland Trails

Surface

Paved & Unpaved

Estimated Total Length

13.0 miles

Hours

Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset

Closures & Alerts

*Please be a courteous trail user: Follow posted signs and our trail rules and etiquette.

Monarch butterflies roosting in a cottonwood tree at Orland Grassland
Monarch butterflies roosting in a cottonwood tree at Orland Grassland. Photo by Ralph Chichester.

Nature Notes

This site has more than 750 acres of open prairie in which rare grassland birds find needed habitat. The area was once farmland but is now being restored as a grassland complex with prairie, wetlands, open ponds, oak savannas, shrublands and woodlands. Since habitat restoration efforts began in 2002, native grasses and wildflowers have also begun to flourish. Of the millions of acres of prairie that existed in Illinois prior to the arrival of the settlers, only .001 remains. Orland Grassland is bringing back that native prairie heritage.

Enjoy the sights and songs of birds seen almost nowhere else, butterflies and dragonflies and multitudes of grasshoppers hopping around your feet. Watch coyotes trot alone along the horizon as the shadows of clouds drift across the prairie.

Glacial advances and retreats created a rolling topography, where  prairie uplands and low wetlands once shared the landscape. Disabling miles of drain tiles from earlier farming days enabled the site’s natural water scheme (or “hydrology”) to return, once again providing flowing streams, open ponds and swaths of wetlands.

Many grassland birds of concern, such as the Henslow’s sparrow, bobolink, dickcissel, field sparrow, eastern meadowlark and others are found at Orland. More than 100 bird species are counted each year at the volunteer bird count, including warblers, dunlins, phalaropes, sora rails, orchard orioles and eastern kingbirds. Harriers and Cooper’s hawks circle in the sky, and migrating sandhill cranes have stopped over in good numbers. These special birds find habitat among some equally special plants, such as the scurfy pea, lead plant, hoary puccoon and prairie gentian. Purple prairie clover and grass-leaved goldenrod add color, while the towering compass plant and prairie dock add dimension to the greens and browns of the iconic prairie grasses. Grass species here include little bluestem, prairie dropseed, big bluestem, Indian grass and Scribner’s and Leiberg’s panic grasses.

Orland Grassland with compass plants in the foreground.
Photo by Jeanne Muellner.

Restoring Orland Grassland

Learn more about restoration efforts at Orland Grassland:


Volunteer Opportunities

Hike into rolling acres of prairie, wetlands, savanna and shrubland, enjoying beautiful vistas and wildlife along the way. Join volunteers to restore habitat for many important threatened grassland birds. Activities include cutting invasive brush to protect bur oaks and native shrubs from being crowded out. Invasive species like white sweet clover and teasel are removed and native seed is collected to distribute within the grassland.