Until I knew the prairies, mid-July was not my favorite time in Indiana. This time of year is hot and often wretchedly humid, and the colors of spring — so sweetly surprising after a winter unfolding mostly in grayscale — have all faded into a uniform green. The redbuds are gone, and spring flowers no longer carpet the forest floor. And anyway, hiking in the woods is no longer a reliably refreshing experience; stinging nettles and poison ivy crowd out woodland trails, and the respirations of the trees can feel superheated. Paddling may not offer an alternative, as the waters are too often warmish and clogged with algae.

The prairies in full bloom, as they are now, are different. The sun is still hot on a July prairie, but it does always set, bringing cooler air and sweeter light. Although everything else seems quieter, the birds are still noisy at dusk, swooping from flower to flower and chattering the whole time.

Large portions of northern Indiana were once covered with tall-grass prairie, the plants so high they could conceal a horse and rider. In some parts of the Midwest, a human being might see nothing but this tangle of grasses and flowers in every possible direction, clear to the horizon.

As we were walking through the prairie on Friday night, we startled a buck that had bedded down in the plants and he bounded away. I hope he found another good spot to sleep.


(The rest of the images are on the Trailhead’s Facebook page.)


5 thoughts on “The prairie at Prophetstown

  1. Lovely photo of a scene that reminds me of my childhood when the fields that had gone fallow were a paradise for adventure and fun. We would play hide-and-seek in the tall weeds and grass and they would be above our heads! So true a characterization of July in Indiana – but you left out the bugs. Twilight is that single magical moment between the billowing clouds of gnats and the start of the mosquito feeding frenzy…

    1. What do you know, I did. šŸ™‚ A few weeks ago I was camping on Wildcat Creek near Lafayette and the mosquitoes were so swarmy that dozens — and I mean dozens — of bats were swooping around my tent having a buffet. I saw none at Prophetstown and didn’t get bitten by anything. I guess that’s the difference water makes.

  2. When the movie “Dances With Wolves” came out, I was so excited to see it. I was anticipating scenes with buffalo and Native American dance and such. I wasn’t expecting the endless grasslands and a sky that went on forever. And, while I know it wasn’t filmed in the “midwest” per se, it gave me such an appreciation for what prairies really look like.
    This image just blows me away. The idea that once, not really so long ago, people were graced with such a beautiful scene summer after summer. That there are still places where flowers compete for space and grow as tall as possible to reach the sun. Where grass literally waves in the breeze.
    Oh for a little cabin plopped smack in the middle of such a glorious spot.

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