a history that has been lost. There are no more natives in the area,” said Christie Trifone-Simon of JDCF.

The prized feature of Casper Bluff is the thunderbird effigy mound, the only known intact thunderbird effigy mound remaining in the state of Illinois. Native Americans believed the world was composed of three planes of existence. The upper world of air is the realm of the winged creatures, ruled by the thunderbirds.

“Thunderbirds would carry the thoughts and prayers of the people to the gods, in the upper world. They also were thought to control the rain and the weather, so they were worshiped. There are no other effigy mounds in the shape of a bird in Illinois, so this is a very special place,” explained Trifone-Simon.

White settlers came to the area in the 1800s, and while some natives are still rumored to have buried their dead at the site as late as the turn of the century, the site became pasture land, until the JDCF acquired the property from a donation from the Casper family, in 2008.

Since then the JDCF has worked tirelessly to transform it into a natural prairie paradise.

Over 99 percent of the prairie that once covered much of Illinois is gone, but thanks to the efforts of the JDCF, a part of that natural history remains.

“We have quite a diverse population of wildflowers here, all picked from Jo Daviess County,” Trifone-Simon said.

This transition has made Casper Bluff a haven for natural wildlife, especially birds.

Bluebird houses have been added to the property, part of a nation-wide effort to provide nest locations to the fowl species that has seen its nesting areas and habitat diminishing over recent years.

“We have lots of birds out here. It is one of the best places in the area to come and bird. Being so close to the river, we have lots of water birds, as well as prairie birds and open-grass birds. We have lots of really cool bird species out here, from bobolink, meadowlark, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, owls and more,” she continued.

Casper Bluff also provides an absolutely stunning view of the Mississippi River and the bluffs of Iowa. Along the river bluff you can see a rare oak savanna.

“The river overlook is probably the most visited part of Casper. For all the folks that come and want to see the river, this is the ideal point. In the fall, the color change here is incredible,” noted Trifone-Simon.

While great for its views alone, the property is also popular for hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers. It’s also a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of life.

“You don’t see or hear any semblance of civilization,” she concluded. “You just feel like you are out in the wild. It is very peaceful. It is great for any outdoor enthusiast, or just people that like to sightsee or go on a walk. It accommodates anyone’s outdoor interest. You can really escape, and it’s so close to Galena that it doesn’t take long to get out here. It adds to the whole experience of the area, and gives people another really neat reason to visit Galena and Jo Daviess County.”