Belmont Prairie at Gelwicks Park is one of the last original prairies in Illinois. It is an excellent example of one of the few remaining natural prairie habitats that is maintained by the Downers Grove Park District. The efforts of the District have been rewarded by the Prairie's official designation by the State as an Illinois Nature Preserve, supporting more than 300 species of plant and animal wildlife. It is an excellent educational and cultural resource for the benefit of District residents and visitors from farther afield. The Prairie contains a wide variety of quadra-seasonal grasses and other plants in an undisturbed setting. The animal wildlife that may be observed includes fox, raccoons, meadow voles, opossums, ground squirrels, garter snakes and, occasionally, coyote and white-tailed deer. A nature trail provides pedestrian access. The prairie is served by a 6 car parking lot located on Cross Street.
Please note: In accordance with the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission there are no dogs, bikes, or cross-country skis allowed in Belmont Prairie. Thank you for your cooperation.
Dawn to Dusk
In December 1842, John Graves purchased two quarter-sections of prairie land from the U.S. government, west of Downers Grove. This purchase included what are today both Belmont Prairie and the Downers Grove Golf Course. This piece of land changed ownership numerous times until it was divided in 1890, with one half becoming the golf course and the other remaining prairie, and the block between them being developed in 1920.
Then, in April of 1970, Alfred and Margaret Dupree presented a photograph of a rare prairie wildflower to an expert at the Morton Arboretum, as they were interested if it represented possible remnants of a native prairie. Upon inspection, it was found that the field had numerous native prairie species, and with the help of The Nature Conservancy, the owners were tracked down and the land was purchased. After officially becoming a part of the Park District, it was named an Illinois Nature Preserve in March, 1994.