Hidden in plain sight, almost dead center in the Central Illinois plains, Elkhart sits quietly in the southwestern corner of Logan County and awaits the coming of spring and the town’s historic Wild Weekends-Wildflower and Bird Walks. This wonderful natural event is held annually every weekend in April in a beautiful private reserve on Elkhart Hill, the tallest natural geologic formation between Chicago and St. Louis, rising nearly 800 feet above sea level. The hill encompasses almost 700 acres.
The Elkhart Historical Society was co-founded in 1988 by Gillette Ransom, who has coordinated and hosted the wildflower and bird walks on her farm every year since. Best known for its Virginia bluebells, Elkhart Hill comes alive with the colors of small flowers every year after the last snow. March wildflowers are usually in full swing for the first April walk, and throughout the next four weeks you get the chance to watch the coming of new blossoms, such as:
Common Phlox—Phlox divaricata
Dwarf Larkspur—Delphinium tricorne
Great Waterleaf—Hydrophyllum appendiculatum
Green Dragon—Arisaema dracontium
Showy Orchis—Galearis spectabilis
Wild Geranium—Geranium maculatum
Wild Ginger—Asarum canadense
Yellow Bellywort—Uvularia grandiflora
Though many wildflowers tend to taper off when the trees of the woodlands leaf and shade the ground, just as many wildflowers have adapted to low light and continue to flourish. Nearly every week of spring and summer you can see new species of wildflowers pop from the ground, dominated by bluebells that cover the hill in a spring blanket of purple.
The Gillette Farm is the location of the first cabin built in Logan County, by James Latham and his son Richard. In 1818, the same year Illinois became a state, Latham plowed 30 acres of woodland to create farmland that has been cultivated every year for more than two centuries. The hill was formed as a sand and gravel deposit during the Illinoian Glacial Period. Because of its particular geologic formation and the existence of unlogged, old-growth forest, the farm and Elkhart Hill are home to wildflower species you won't see anywhere else.
Contact the Logan County Tourism Bureau for dates and times of other wildflower and bird walk events in Logan County.