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An Overview of ChicagoNatureNOW!
Chicago Nature Information

Gensburg-Markham Prairie is famous for its late July fanfare, when the fields ignite with white sparks of flowering spurge and purple torches of marsh blazing star.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie is famous for its late July fanfare, when the fields ignite with white sparks of flowering spurge and purple torches of marsh blazing star.

Experience National Park Quality Beauty in Chicago

Hi! I’m Mike MacDonald, your Chicago Nature Matchmaker. Each week, Chicago nature brings you flowers with national park quality blooming events. And we tell you where to go, so you can set up the date and fall in love. In doing so, I hope to improve the heath and well-being of both you and our local preserves.

There are more than 450 square miles of protected natural area within fifty miles of downtown Chicago. That’s bigger than most national parks, including Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Mount Rainier, and Acadia. Most surprisingly, Chicagoland is also home to over 1,700 native plant species—far more plant biodiversity than any national park—the closest being Grand Canyon National Park at 1,544. This means that every day from mid-April through September, there’s a national-park quality wildflower blooming shiw happening right down the road from home, work, or school!

I created my book and, now, this website as my contributions to you and to the world. They are works of love, not just in their creation but in their goal: to connect people with nature and to spark countless love affairs. Yet, these are just doorways into the natural world. I invite you to cross the threshold, go outside, and explore. Be awed by nature’s beauty. Ponder its mysteries and delight in its wonder. And, if you do, you will surely fall into everlasting love.

Even though I and many restoration volunteers have fallen in love Chicago nature, it isn’t enough. Many more people are needed to love it so that it can be restored to health. And because you can’t love and support something that you don’t know about, I created my book and this website to introduce Chicagoans to the natural wonders of their home.

This platform is powered by my one-of-a-kind proprietary database that I began in 2003 to keep track of spectacular wildflower blooms for use in my photography. Now, it’s also the information engine that drives ChicagoNatureNOW!.

Each week of the growing season, I post weekly ChicagoNatureNOW! Alerts so thqt you can experience magnificent wildflower shows. Visit these special places, cherish them, and care for them. Then spread this Chicago nature information, and encourage others to experience the magic.

Why These Preserves?

Just like our national parks that showcase the natural wonders of the United States, I’ve chosen my own set of showcase preserves to best represent the natural history of the region known as Chicago Wilderness. It is an area formed by glaciers that receded about 13,000 years ago and is defined by its unique geology and habitats that extend around the lake from southeast Wisconsin into northwest Indiana.

There are hundreds of nature preserves within the Chicago region, and I encourage you to visit them. However, many no longer feature a wide array of native plant species because they are under attack by weedy invaders from other regions and continents. Over my many years photographing for Chicago Wilderness magazine, I have discovered and fallen in love with a special handful of sites. Not only do they offer exceptional native biological diversity, but they are especially beautiful and provide an escape from urban life. They have stolen my heart, and my hope is that they’ll steal yours, as well.

As the battle to remove the invaders continues, and ecological restoration breathes new life and beauty into an increasing number of degraded sites, I will continue to explore and to add more high-quality nature preserves to this website.


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