Lake-to-Prairie is hosting a field trip at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, at Adelein Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park in Zion.
Participants should meet at the visitors center, 1 Lake Front Drive; call (847) 662 2481 for directions. The guided hike will be led by Don Wilson, a steward at the park, and Don Wilson, a renowned local birder. Birding expert Dave Johnson also will attend.
Lake-to-Prairie is a chapter of Wild Ones, a national not-for-profit organization that promotes the use of native plants in landscapes.
The park has a complex geological structure, multiple unique flora, and a spectacular beauty, including tracts of land untouched since glacial times, 6½ miles of the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state, rare orchids that are in danger of becoming extinct, and, more than 800 species of plants, mammals, and birds, including the Blandings turtle.
Illinois Beach State Park features 14 ecosystems created by the titanic forces of glacial advance and retreat and the steady winds that blow across Lake Michigan. It's part of the mid-continental divide, and it even has a "dead" river.
More than 650 species of plants have been recorded in the dunes area alone, including dozens of types of colorful wildflowers. Prickly pear cactus thrives in large colonies in the dry areas, and the wet prairies are carpeted with a variety of grasses and sedges. Large expanses of marsh in the swales support dense stands of cattail, bluejoint grass, prairie cordgrass, reed grass, big bluestem and sedges.
The sandy ridges are crowned by black oak forests with an open, savanna-like appearance, and several kinds of fragrant pines, introduced here a century ago, also prosper in the southern area.
Just north of these pines is the Dead River, which actually is a stream that is blocked by sandbars much of the year, forming an elongated pond. When the water finally rises high enough, it breaks through the sandbar and drains the surrounding marshes. The abundance of aquatic plants and fish flourishing in this changing environment belie its name.
The hike is expected to last about two hours. Registration is not required for this free event. Participants should bring a camera and binoculars.
For more information, call (847) 940-9482, email RickAtHome@mitec.com or visit http://www.wildones.org/chapters/lake2prairie/.