Wildlife Prairie Park: Where the Bison Roam

Who would think that just outside of Peoria, two-and-a-half miles off the Interstate in Hanna City, Illinois, a herd of bison roam the prairie? Described as a jewel in the Midwest, Wildlife Prairie Park is home to 150 animals of 50 species native to Illinois. Wildlife, ten miles of hiking trails through natural landscape, fishing ponds and a schedule of planned activities bring around 140,000 guests to the park each year.

Bison Blessing Ceremony and PowWow

We visited Wildlife Prairie Park during the Annual Bison Blessing Ceremony and PowWow. The event is a partnership between the park and the Seven Circles Heritage Center.

The scent of sage and the sound of a drumbeat and chant from the Spirit of the Rainbow Singers filled the air as each participating person was blessed with sage smoke, which is believed to rid impurities.

Bison blessing

Bison blessing 2

Then ceremony participants passed a pipe filled with tobacco and natural herbs around their circle. We were told they don’t inhale and that the pipe is a vehicle to send prayers to the heavens for blessings of the bison and the water. They believe that all water is sacred, for without water, nothing can live. No photos are allowed to be taken once the pipe is brought out.

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The bison stayed a distance away during the blessing, although they gradually roamed forward.

Bison 2

Bison 1At the pow wow that followed the blessing, you could purchase Native American goods and watch the dances. You could even participate if you wanted to.

Pow wow 2

Pow wow 3

Wildlife Prairie Park activities

After spending some time at the pow wow, we checked out other parts of the park.

We took the half-hour ride on the Prairie Zephyr Train. The Prairie Zephyr is a 24 gauge train that runs two miles through the park. On the ride we learned more about the Wildlife Prairie Park, including its history. The park was founded in 1978 by Bill and Hazel Rutherford and became a state park for a while. It’s now privately owned again.

Train ride

Train

We stopped briefly at the Visitor Center, where we learned more about wildlife native to Illinois. Kids can also participate in hands-on learning experiences in the Visitor Center.

Not yet ready to leave, we took a short trail hike to see some of the wildlife, a playground and a one-room schoolhouse.

Visitor CenterWildlife 2

Eagle

Playground

schoolhouse

schoolhouse bell

schoolhouse interior

I must have been meant to be in the dunce chair—the hat matched my shirt perfectly.

Dunce

Time wasn’t on our side that day. We had to leave before we did everything we would have liked to. It would be fun to return some day to see more of the wildlife and perhaps take in another special event, like the Old English Faire or the Wildlife Scary Park.

If you visit Wildlife Prairie Park

Wildlife Prairie Park, open year round, is located at 3826 N Taylor Road, Hanna City, Illinois. Check the web site for hours, admission rates and information on fishing, lodging and other attractions and events.

Accommodations: We stayed at the Mark Twain Hotel in Peoria during our visit to the area. Check hotel rates here.

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Wildlife Prairie Park

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Disclosures:  The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Wildlife Prairie Park hosted our visit to the park. However,  any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.
This article contains an affiliate link. If you book a room through the “Check hotel rates” above, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

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