- Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area
Infobox_protected_area | name = Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, Illinois, USA
iucn_category = Ib
caption = Map of the
U.S. stateof Illinoisshowing the location of Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area
locator_x = 205
locator_y = 85
location = Grundy County,
Coal City, Illinois
lat_degrees = 41
lat_minutes = 22
lat_seconds = 03
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 88
long_minutes = 17
long_seconds = 50
long_direction = W
area = convert|2537|acre|km2|2|lk=on
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area is a 2,537-acre (10.3 km²)
state parkand listed state nature preserve. More than half of the state park is a tallgrass prairiemaintained as a natural area of Illinois. It is located in Grundy County near the town of Coal City, approximately 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Chicago.cite book
year = 1991
title = Illinois Atlas and Gazetteer
publisher = DeLorme Mapping
location = Freeport, Maine
id = ISBN 0-89933-213-7 ]
The Goose Lake region formed in the post-
Wisconsin glaciationperiod as a flat, wet area dominated by layers of sand and silt laid down by postglacial outwash. The massive Des Plaines Riverand Kankakee Rivercome together here to form the Illinois River.
The Illinois River, with its massive valley downstream, began to drain this patch of land, although it remained flat and wet. During the time of the Native Americans, the Goose Lake area was a stable
wetland, with swathes of prairie grass surrounding the shallow "Goose Lake".
The Goose Lake area was a favorite place for Native American hunting, fishing, and gathering, with
geese, ducks, and other waterfowl; a wide variety of fishand shellfish; and wet-footed game such as beaverand muskrat. However, there were also plenty of mosquitoes.
While the flat,
alluvialsoil of this riparianbottomland was intensely fertile, the lack of adequate drainage made the land of the Goose Lake country unsuitable for subdivision for agriculture. A different fate awaited much of it.
The poorly-drained sediment under and adjacent to Goose Lake was rich in
clay. Starting as early as the 1820s, the sticky clay was extensively dug by settlers. Some of them were trained potters; they fired the clay in kilns to create pieces of earthenwarefor frontier farm and household needs. The potters' settlement was called "Jugtown", and the road to the park's visitor center is called "Jugtown Road" to this day. A few pieces of "Jugtown" earthenware have been saved by collectors, and some of the larger claypits can be seen today. Frontiersmen also dug ditches through the clay to partly drain the wet prairie for pastureland. Soil too damp for crops could be used for cattle.
Local drainage activity peaked in
1890, when local farmers formed a drainage district and cooperated to drain Goose Lake. The area's defining geographical feature disappeared and was replaced by damp farmland and wet pastureland. The drainage was a partial failure; if it had been a success, the remaining patches of prairie would have disappeared under the plow. Today, the park's "Marsh Loop Trail" passes over part of the bed of the vanished lake.
Underneath the clay were thin veins of
coal, dug from the beginning by the farmers and potters for local use. In the second half of the 1800s, regional coal mining increased to supply fuel to the growing city of Chicago. The main line of the Santa Fe Railroadwas built adjacent to the prairie land, and the mines built spur tracks into the coal field to haul the coal to customers. Industrial strip mining, with motorized shovels, began in 1928. The miners left piles of tailingsin the southern section of the remaining prairie, further altering the landscape.
The area was finally and most dratically altered after World War II with the construction of two great electrical generating plants, the coal-burning Collins Station and the nuclear-powered
Dresden Nuclear Power Plant(1960). The Collins plant was constructed in conjunction with an adjacent 2,000-acre (8.1 km²) artificial pond, Heidecke Lake, dug to serve as a cooling pond for the generating plant. Heidecke Lake today serve as much of the northern boundary of Goose Lake Prairie. Ironically, the hand of man had destroyed one lake in the Illinois River bottomland, Goose Lake, and then created another, Heidecke Lake.
The first 250 acres (1 km²) of Goose Lake was purchased by Illinois for nature preservation purposes in
1969. The addition of additional parcels created the present-day Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area. The remaining patches of tallgrass prairie had been extensively altered by human activity during the preceding 150 years, but active management began to re-knit these patches into a unified swathe of natural grassland.
Unlike many of Illinois's state parks, Goose Lake Prairie is not primarily managed for hunting; visitors are encouraged to enjoy a tallgrass prairie
ecosystem, dominated by grasses such as big bluestem, Indian grass, and switchgrass, and by flowering forbssuch as compass plants, coneflowers, goldenrod, shooting stars, and violets. The state park's workers and managers maintain a 7-mile (11 km) network of trails throughout the park. Some of the park's patches of mature grassland sprout blades up to 8 feet (2.4 m) in height.
The patches of old-growth tallgrass prairie that have survived to the present day serve as a biotic refuge for many species that can live nowhere else, especially prairie-endemic
mothsand butterflies. Some rare prairie plants are especially adapted to feed and be fertilized by equally rare prairie insects. Lepidopterists have found the papaipema moth, previously thought to be extinct, fluttering about Goose Lake Prairie's forbs and flowers.
The Cragg Cabin, a c. 1838 log cabin originally built in nearby
Mazon, Illinois, has been relocated to Goose Lake Prairie as a tribute to the frontier heritage of the "Prairie State". Together with the nearby Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Goose Lake Prairie is a reminder of the tens of thousands of acres of tallgrass prairie that once lived in Illinois.
Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area is accessible from Exit 240 on
* [http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/i&m/east/goose/home.htm Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Goose Lake Prairie SNA]
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