The Jarrett Prairie Nature Preserve is the best known preserve in the Byron Forest Preserve District. These rolling hills of tallgrass prairie, hill prairies, oak savannas, and oak woodlands have been an Illinois Nature Preserve since 1992. In fact, the Byron Forest Preserve District was founded in 1980 to protect the rare prairie remnants that were discovered at this site in 1978. This preserve is home to hundreds of native plant and animal species and several endangered species.
The Jarrett Prairie offers over 7 miles of trails to explore. Each of the trails at this preserve winds through dolomite tallgrass prairie, characterized by thin soils over a layer of dolomite limestone. These prairies can be dry, wet, or mesic (“middle”) depending on how quickly water drains. As was the case at this preserve, European settlers found rocky prairies difficult to plow, and left it as pasture for cattle. This practice preserved small patches of native prairie remnants across the state until preservation efforts started. These remnant patches contain many rare wildflowers that can only be viewed in high quality prairies, which are very rare in Illinois. Other sections of the Jarrett Prairie Preserve have been seeded and planted to restore these acres to something resembling pre-European settlement Illinois and our best understanding of what grew on site before recent agricultural use. They are maintained with annual prescribed fires and removal of invasive species. The diversity of prairie plants is not tied to space, but rather time. From early spring to late fall, prairie flowers grow and bloom for a few weeks at a time; over a hundred species can grow in a single acre, but they are not visible all at once. Every visit to the preserve will show you something new and offer a changing and intriguing landscape.