If you had canoed in July of 1673 with Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet-the first Europeans known to have visited the Chicago region-you would have passed through a landscape harboring a biological richness in some ways unsurpassed anywhere else on the planet. Poised on the fertile borderlands where hardwood forests met tallgrass prairies, and rivers and streams meandered through expansive wetlands and into vast lakes, the area teemed with wildlife. And if you were a nineteenth-century visitor in what is now-and was then-the heart of downtown Chicago, you might have been overtaken by a group of men with guns and knives hunting an errant bear who had wandered into the city from the prairie to the west. While Chicago may be known today as a city of "wild life," from Al Capone to the Playboy headquarters, Joel Greenberg dazzles readers with the story of Chicago's true and enduring wildlife.
In the sweeping A Natural History of the Chicago Region, Greenberg takes you on a journey that begins with European explorers and settlers and hasn't ended yet. Along the way he introduces you to the physical forces that have shaped the area from southeastern Wisconsin to northern Indiana and Berrien County in Michigan; the various habitat types present in the region and how European settlement has affected them; and the insects, reptiles and amphibians, birds, fish, and mammals found in them, then amidst the settlers and now amidst the skyscrapers. In all, Greenberg chronicles the development of 19 counties in Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin across centuries of ecological, technological, and social transformations.
This is a fascinating story told with humor andpassion, of forests battling prairies for dominance; of storms battering towns and lakes; of prairies plowed, wetlands drained, and species driven extinct in the settlement of the Midwest; and of caring conservationists fighting to preserve and restore the native plants and animals. Drawing on historical sources as well as current scientific information, Greenberg places the natural history of the region in a human context, showing how it affects our everyday existence in even the most urbanized landscapes.
Encyclopedic, compelling, and compassionate, A Natural History of the Chicago Region is the definitive chronicle of the natural life of a major urban area and has much to offer historians as well as any fan of natural history, from birders, hikers, and paddlers to restorationists and ecologists. You will be captivated by everything from the spotted touch-me-not to the coyotes found in the city's most exclusive neighborhoods.