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The Burnham Centennial Prairie is one the three main areas that make up the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, a 100-acre ribbon of urban wilderness running through Burnham Park. This recreated prairie represents the kind of big, bold vision for which Daniel H. Burnham was famous. Burnham was an architect of landmark buildings, the planner of the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, and co-author of the Plan of Chicago – the legendary blueprint to transform Chicago into a “Paris on the Prairie.” At 50+ acres, the Burnham Centennial Prairie is one of the largest natural areas along the entire lakefront of Chicago; a lakefront for which we have Burnham to thank. The Plan of Chicago, published in 1909, provided civic leaders with the impetus they needed to transform a lakefront that was largely privately owned and little more than a dumping ground into the lush, public parkland is today.


This natural area provides sanctuary not only for people, but for many different kinds of native plants and animals. Each year, more than 300 species of birds migrate through Chicago. Some species journey from as far away as the southern tip of Central America. Some continue on as far north as the arctic circle. While here, they need plenty of healthy natural habitat to rest and feed, for which this natural area is ideal.

This natural area has benefited greatly from the dedication and hard work of community volunteers who collect and scatter native seed, plant native species, pick up trash, monitor vegetation and birds, and remove invasive species. Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting our Community Stewardship Program page.