Wildlife Prairie Park was founded by William Rutherford and opened officially in 1978. It started with a simple mission to offer what big zoos could not. Using natural resources William Rutherford created a zoological park as a dedication to Illinois and its pioneer heritage. Today the wildlife park welcomes nearly 140,000 visitors annually with that same mission.
The park itself is a paradise for the animals that live there, all of which are native to the Midwest region. Many of the animals are actually rescues that could not be returned to the wild for various reasons. There animals include: Bison, Elk, Cougars, Black Bears, Foxes, Bobcats, Cranes, Eagles, Otters, Owls, Snakes, Turtles and even domesticated farm animals. Their environments are made to be as close to their natural environment as possible. All of these wonderful animals can be views safely using the park's 1.5 mile animal trail.
Another interesting activity at the park is the Adventure Trek, where visitors can hop on a bus to tour behind the scenes of this beautiful park. Get really up-close with some of nature's most beautiful creatures through this adventurous tour. Visitors might even get the chance to feed some animals along the way! Be sure to call ahead to reserve tickets though, since this is a seasonal activity and tickets go fast.
If you want to view the park with style be sure to check out the park's Wildlife Prairie Park Railroad. The tour through the beautiful forest is not only informational, but relaxing as well. The ride even includes exciting stops along the way like Pioneer and Gollywhopper Pavilions. Tickets are just four dollars and allow you to board on and off at you leisure.
Another must-see is the Kim St John Butterfly Habitat. This 38 ft by 72 ft mesh enclosure containing not only many native butterflies, but native plants as well. Their variety of butterflies include: Monarch, Viceroy, Several species of Swallotail, Pearl Crescent, Question Mark, Eastern Comma, Buckeye, Painted Lady, American Painted Lady, Red Spotted Purple, Red Admiral, Mourning Cloak and more. The enclosure is meant to sustain and support all the stages of the butterfly including: eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and of course butterflies.
Whether your interested in hiking, disc golf, mountain biking, fishing, or just nature in general, this is the perfect family friendly activity. Wildlife Prairie Park provides everything you need to enjoy nature and learn about the native animals of Illinois.