Prairie Autumn

A Quieting Landscape
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The best of autumn's days are among the very best days of the year. Cloudless blue skies, sharp morning air turning almost sultry by midafternoon, the lengthy shadows and rich hues of low-angle sunlight; one needs to be outside on these days and, ideally, out in the open—where the breeze carries and the sky is all-encompassing.

These are perfect days for a walk amidst the tallgrass prairie and prairie-oak savannas of the Midwest. Scatterings of prairie preserves are found from Ohio and Illinois westward into Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska; the farther west one travels, the bigger the sky and more expansive the views. Ranging in size from a few hundred to several thousand acres, these sites include federal lands, most commonly national wildlife refuges, as well as state parks and some private preserves, most notably those owned or managed by The Nature Conservancy.

And don't forget about the wildlife. On sloughs, wetlands, and lakes adjacent to prairie lands, migratory birds are now gathering themselves for the fall flight to southern wintering grounds. Shadowing the flocks are the hunters—eagles, hawks, and for a lucky viewer, a peregrine falcon. Deer are visible at most every hour of the day, it seems; responding to shorter days and colder nights, they feed with a vengeance in fall, building a layer of fat to stay them through the hard months ahead.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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