Three who made Rt 66 Prairie a reality, Ken Schaal, left, President of Montgomery County Natural Area Guardians, Henry Eilers, member of MCNAGs and former Illinois State Senator Deanna Demuzio.
A Great Stop on a Great Road
Route 66 is one of the great roads of the world as celebrated in poetry and songs. One author [Ian Frazier; Travels in Siberia; 2010] lists it with the Sibirskii Tract of his book, as well as Rome’s Via Appia and the famed Silk Road. He might have also added the Camino Real that stretched from Albuquerque to Mexico City. Of all of these it was the most democratic of highways. It reflected the spirit of its people, their urge for new beginnings, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and also a sense of adventure and restlessness.
For much of its length Route 66 was a road of the wide open spaces. Only a few generations ago, it was a landscape of immense grasslands that seemed to stretch on forever. It began in the tall-grass prairies of Illinois and continued through the savannas of Missouri and Oklahoma to the vast desert grasslands of our South-west. To quote in part Doug Ladd, Missouri Prairie Journal, #2, 2011, ‘grasslands have disproportionately shaped our history and prosperity as a culture, becoming victims of their own success as society exploited the fertile prairie soils. As one of the most productive and diverse of the planet’s temperate grasslands was vanquished, America became the world’s breadbasket, reaping the accumulated subterranean wealth of our grassland heritage. As a result, temperate grasslands are today the most endangered, least conserved of any terrestrial habitat on earth – and no temperate grasslands are more endangered than our tallgrass prairies.’
A tiny remnant of this tallgrass prairie that survived, a few miles north of Litchfield, Illinois, is today the beginning of the 8 acre Old Route 66 Prairie restoration. It is a home not only to rare plants, including several orchids but also to equally rare insects and numerous reptiles.
It is located along ‘Historic Old Route 66’ just north of the I-55 IDOT weigh station. A small unmarked parking area is located 200’ to the south of the prairie. At this time no infrastructure exists. Adventurous individuals may explore on their own. Inquiries for more details may be directed to: