If you’re familiar with Wildlife Prairie Park in Hanna City, Illinois (near Peoria), you most likely associate it with its herd of bison or gang of elk. (Yes, a group of elk is called a gang.) Perhaps you also know that the park is home to wolves, coyotes, and other animals. But did you know that Wildlife Prairie Park also includes mountain bike trails, a disc golf course, and is a concert venue? Or that you can spend the night in the park inside a caboose or a grain bin? During our visit to Wildlife Prairie Park last fall, Brien Davis, Community Development and Events Manager showed us around. We discovered there is so much more to this 2,000-acre park than we knew. Here are twelve ways to enjoy Wildlife Prairie Park.
1. Follow the animal trail
Wildlife Prairie Park is home to about 150 animals native to the Midwest. A 1.5 mile wooded trail takes you past cougars, black bears, fox, and bobcats. From overlooks, watch the bison and elk graze the pastures. Eagles, otters, owls, and many more native Midwest animals also reside at Wildlife Prairie Park, all in surroundings as close to natural as possible. Many of the animals are rescues that are unable to go back to living in the wild.
2. Take the Adventure Trek
For a closer up encounter with the bison and elk, opt for the Adventure Trek. Hop aboard a bus and ride to the pasture, where you can feed the animals and learn more about them.
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3. Check out the sculptures
Pick up a brochure at the visitor center or ticket gate for the self-guided sculpture walk. There are over 30 statues and sculptures on the park property.
4. Ride the Prairie Zephyr
Tired of walking? Take a ride through the park on the Prairie Zephyr. The train takes you through two loops, which you can do all at once, or get off at the next station and reboard at your convenience.
5. Visit the Kim St. John Butterfly Habitat
In the largest native butterfly habitat in downstate Illinois, you’ll find over twenty different species of butterflies, including Painted Lady, Giant Swallowtail, and Red Spotted Purple.
6. Join the Junior Naturalist Program
Wildlife Prairie Park offers several educational options, including the Junior Naturalist Program for kids. A different topic is covered in each session. Sessions are held once a month, typically on the first Saturday. Examples of topics are animal habitats, sleeping patterns, and plant diversity. Kids receive a badge and booklet for each session they attend.
7. Go Fishing
Bring your fishing gear and fish in one of several lakes on the park property. (You must follow IDNR rules and regulations, as well as Wildlife Prairie Park rules and regulations.)
8. Attend a special event
A few years ago we visited Wildlife Prairie Park on the annual Bison Blessing weekend. Besides the Native American blessing ceremony, the event includes a pow wow, hayrack rides, wildlife chats, guided hikes, and more. Other special events are an Olde English Faire, homeschool events, and Boy Scout Badge Days. Check the events calendar for upcoming events.
9. Mountain bike or hike
Mountain bike, cross-country ski, snow shoe, or hike over 20 miles of trails.
10. Play disc golf
The championship-level 18-hole disc golf course is still under construction according to the park’s website, but most of it is already playable. I’ve never played disc golf myself, and I don’t imagine it’s easy. But this course seems especially challenging, with three of the holes passing over bodies of water and hole lengths anywhere form 200 feet to 1,000 feet. No doubt, experienced golf disc players especially will enjoy this course.
11. Attend a concert
In 2017 Wildlife Prairie Park began a once-a-month summer concert series. Bring your lawn chairs, sit around a bonfire if you wish, and listen to local bands.
12. Spend the night
We didn’t spend the night at the park. In fact, before our visit we didn’t even know lodging was available at the park. But after seeing some of the accommodation options, I want to go back. How fun would it be to spend a night in a caboose or perhaps in a grain bin cottage? A double grain bin cottage (two bins connected) sleeps as many as ten. More traditional guest rooms, a cabin, and tent camping (no hookups) are also available.
If you visit Wildlife Prairie Park
Wildlife Prairie Park is located at 3826 N Taylor Road in Hanna City, Illinois, about 13 miles west of Peoria. The park is open year-round, but some activities are seasonal. Check the website for hours, admission rates, and other details.
Disclosure: The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted our visit to Wildlife Prairie Park. Our admission was complimentary. However, any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.
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