May Watts was a naturalist, author, educator and visionary.  One of her visions was an abandoned rail line transformed into a nature trail. The Illinois Prairie Path was one of the first rails to trails conversion in the United States. It is a legacy that continues to be an integral part of life in DuPage County.    

The Illinois Prairie Path runs through the middle of the county from Elmhurst to West Chicago offering walkers, runners and bike riders access to several downtown areas and commuter rail stations. It’s a popular place for recreation, relaxation and dog walking. The trail is also popular with wildlife. The wooded and open spaces lining it provide habitat for bees, butterflies and birds and create a wildlife corridor linking parks and preserves.

Turtle on the trail
Photo by Ken McClurg

The IPP is a group of dedicated volunteers providing display cases with trail maps, mile markers, benches, and waste receptacles for keeping the trail clean. The group paid homage to Watts’ love of the Illinois native landscape with a commitment to preserving, restoring and re-establishing prairies along the trail.

Photo: Ken McClurg
Photo: Ken McClurg

The IPP planted and maintains four vibrant patches of native flowers along the trail, three in Wheaton and one in West Chicago. (locations listed below) IPP shares DMP’s vision of a pollinator friendly county and has made the Illinois Prairie Path part of the recovery strategy for monarch butterflies. 

May Watts would be pleased to know the trail she envisioned sixty years ago continues to be an important part of life for people and wildlife.

Location of Native Plantings

  • President St, Wheaton (both sides of the trail)
  • Hill Ave, Wheaton, (east of Hill on the north side)
  • Liberty and Carlton, Wheaton (next to garage)
  • Intersection of the IPP and Great Western Trail, West Chicago

IPP is an Associate Member of the DuPage Monarch Project.