Natural and Open Spaces

    Des Plaines River Floodplain

    Roughly located east of Interstate 94 between State Highways 50 and 165. On the other side of Lake Andrea from Pleasant Prairie RecPlex (9900 Terrwall Terrace).

    This environmentally sensitive area that contains the Des Plaines River, floodplains, shorelands, wetlands, and wildlife habitat areas. A portion of the river is accessible through nature trails located in the north western corner of Prairie Springs Park. The Des Plaines River open space area is comprised of roughly 750 acres of preservation lands. It offers opportunities for both passive recreational and preservation activities including walking/hiking and bird watching. This open space area is open to the public from sunrise to sunset, year round. Parking is available inside Prairie Springs Park.

    Chiwaukee Prairie

    Roughly located along the Lake Michigan Shoreline, east of Sheridan Road (Highway 32), and both north and south of 116th Street.

    The Chiwaukee Prairie is recognized as a National natural landmark. Chiwaukee's northern border begins with the Kenosha Sand Dunes (accessible through Southport Park in the City of Kenosha). It's comprised of roughly 482 acres of preservation lands, some privately owned and many publicly owned by various entities. Chiwaukee Prairie offers opportunities for both passive recreational and preservation activities including walking/hiking, bird watching, and volunteering for prairie restoration work days (www.chiwaukee.org). Varying species of plants and other wildlife are visible throughout the spring, summer and fall. Parking is available along the streets surrounding the prairie. These State natural areas are open to the public from sunrise to sunset, year round.

    The Chiwaukee Prairie, A History

    The Chiwaukee Prairie is a State Natural Area in Pleasant Prairie located south of the City of Kenosha along the Lake Michigan Shoreline, east of Sheridan Road (Highway 32), and both north and south of 116th Street.

    The over 400-acre Chiwaukee Prairie is the most species-rich prairie in Wisconsin. The diversity of the vegetation is unequaled with more than 400 species of native plants, including five state-endangered and five state-threatened species. The plant communities found in Chiwaukee include wet prairie as the dominant cover, and with some sandy, dry prairie on the higher ridges.

    Sedge meadows and emergent marsh vegetation occupy the deeper swales. There are tall grasses and oak openings along the western and southern portions of the preserve. The prairie contains nationally significant archeological and geological features.

    In addition to the plants, there are birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates, which create an impressive collection of biodiversity. The prairie was formed 13,000 years ago, when Lake Michigan receded and prairie plants followed the edge. As a former lakebed, the prairie stands on beach sand covered with about 10 inches of topsoil.

    The northern portion of the Prairie extends as far north as 80th Street and contains southeastern Wisconsin's most unusual topographical feature: the Kenosha Dunes.

    The dunes were created by the winds and the wave action of the receding Lake Michigan. Vegetation such as sand reed grass, which binds sand together, eventually took root and helped to create the relatively stable dune formations.

    The area which is atop an ancient forest supports a variety of wildlife. The dunes were once owned by the Wisconsin Electric Power Company (now known as WE Energies), which considered building a power plant at the site. That concept changed when in the 1970's an alternative site in south central Pleasant Prairie was selected for the power plant.

    In 1993, the company donated the area to The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin who in turn turned it over to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Dunes was then declared protected as a State Natural Area.

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