Hanley Savanna is a 160-acre prairie, savanna, and woodland restoration in rural Hanover, Illinois. Owned by TPE and stewarded by the Northwest Illinois Prairie Enthusiasts since 2003, this site has transformed from row cropland and white pine plantation to several types of prairie ecosystems, including tall grass prairies, oak savannas, fens, sand blowouts, and black oak barrens.
The “Sandbox” Prairie at Hanley Savanna (photo by Jim Quick)
Hanley Savanna connects the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi River U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve. Altogether, these and adjoining protected areas create the largest protected area in northwest Illinois – about 11,200 acres – with a wide diversity of natural areas from bluff tops down through the Mississippi River.
Visitors are welcome at Hanley Savanna. Hiking trails throughout the area allow easy access to observe native prairie and savanna plants as well as a variety of grassland and woodland birds. Interpretive signage at the shelter near the intersection of Whitton and Hanover Hill Roads provides details about the history of Hanley Savanna, information about prairies, and a trail map.
Address: 9417 Whitton Road, Hanover, IL 61041
Some Roberts Prairie forbs at Hanley Savanna (photo by Susan Lipnick)
Elmoville Prairie, in rural Stockton, Illinois, is a remnant prairie, meaning it or something like it has been on that site for a very long time. This site was NIPE’s first land protection effort, part of the 1990’s “Yankee Hollow” project which included identifying and trying to preserve Parker Prairie, Youngbluth Prairie, Bluebird Prairie, and other remnants in the area.
Despite being an original prairie remnant, Elmoville has needed tending over the years to bring smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) under control. Those efforts have allowed a 3+-acre prairie to show off its amazing plant diversity. An interesting fact: While prescribed burning now takes place on a regular schedule, Elmoville may not have been burned for 175 years. Prior to the first prescribed burn by NIPE, Elmoville had extraordinarily large leadplants, with stems as much as two inches wide. Since leadplants grow very slowly, the width of those stems indicated the long gap in burns at Elmoville.
In November 2021, NIPE received funds to purchase equipment for prescribed burns. The Freeport (Illinois) Community Foundation’s Luthin Family Endowment Fund awarded NIPE $4,486.00 for this specific purpose. NIPE is grateful to Michelle DeHaven, Executive Director of the Freeport Community Foundation and to Richard Luthin, who established the particular endowment fund.
In June 2021, NIPE was finally able to put the “Events” funding of its Public Amenities and Events grant to good use. The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF) had awarded NIPE the 18-month grant in March of 2019. The Events portion had to be delayed a year because of the pandemic. On June 27, 2021, NIPE used those funds bring biologist Bev Paulan to Hanley Savanna, where she presented her talk on “Native Plants Need Native Pollinators.”
All visitors to Hanley Savanna can still enjoy the funded amenities: the interpretative signage display and trail map in the shelter and benches along some trails with spectacular views.
From time to time, researchers ask NIPE to use their sites as a place to conduct specialized projects. Recent projects have included mycorrhizal fungi research, butterfly surveys, and a bat survey. If you are interested in using Hanley Savanna or Elmoville Prairie for your own research projects, please contact NIPE at [email protected].