Hiking, bird watching, wildflower viewing, exploring. View All
Tips and guidelines for visiting this preserve. View All
The combined restoration of this area including Iowa and Missouri will be more than 70,000 acres. Efforts to restore a tallgrass prairie landscape and provide critical corridors for grassland species are moving forward through intensive restoration of prairie systems and natural communities through partnership with private landowners and other conservation organizations. The greater prairie chicken and Henslow's sparrows are signature species on this native prairie. A herd of bison was reintroduced onto the landscape in the autumn of 2011.
On the wide-open expanses of Dunn Ranch Prairie and Pawnee Prairie, prairie chickens still perform their colorful spring "booming", the upland sandpiper's ghostly call carries in the wind, regal fritillary butterflies alight on gorgeous coneflowers, and bison roam across rolling hills.
Harrison County, north of Bethany
Dunn Ranch: 3,258 acres
The Nature Conservancy's Pawnee Prairie: 514 acres
Missouri Department of Conservation's Pawnee Prairie: 476 acres
Area in Grand River Grasslands protected by The Nature Conservancy: more than 5,000 acres
Grand River Grassland restoration landscape: 70,000 acres.
The area is marked by high vegetation from late spring through fall. Large rolling hills make for a moderate hike. It is frequently windy, and spring can be very cool and breezy on the prairie. In summer it is often very hot, with little shade. Beware of bison on Dunn Ranch.
Temperate grasslands are the least protected major habitat type on earth. In the entire Central Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion, an area spanning 110,000 square miles and parts of six states, Dunn Ranch Prairie represents possibly the last chance to conserve a living landscape of tallgrass prairie on deep soil. Of the original 2,281-acre Dunn Ranch purchased by the Conservancy in 1999, more than 1000 acres have never been plowed. Today, Dunn Ranch Prairie is the anchor site of a 70,000-acre prairie restoration that extends into Iowa.
Grasslands are important not only for native species, but also for people. They clean our water, protect us from flooding, and store carbon in their roots. Grasslands are great places for hunting, birding, and hiking, and they benefit ranching communities by providing forage for livestock even in times of severe drought.
The Conservancy is working closely with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and other partners to restore a functional tallgrass prairie. Controlled burning, conservation grazing, and woody reduction are being used on a large scale to abate the degradation of habitat caused by invasive species, such as fescue and Osage orange and locust trees.
Prairie chickens "boom" at Dunn Ranch every spring.
Native prairie milkweed can be found at Dunn Ranch.
Thousands of pounds of native seed are harvested and sown every year at Dunn Ranch.
Hear the story of Dunn Ranch Prairie and find out how bison were returned to the landscape.
"Living St. Louis" producer Jim Kirchherr travels to Dunn Ranch Prairie to watch these rare birds perform their 'booming' mating ritual.
This preserve is home to a suite of grassland birds, including greater prairie chickens, Henslow's sparrows, upland sandplover, sedge wrens, grasshopper sparrows, Northern Harrier, Bobolink, and Dicksissel. Bison were reintroduced in October 2011. Plans are in place for the reintroduction of Topeka shiner into prairie streams.
The native seed nursery at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Pawnee Prairie showcases 28 forbs and grasses that are being used in the restoration efforts. A vast array of native wildflowers and grasses can also be found, including little bluestem, big bluestem, switch grass, Indian grass, rattlesnake master, prairie violet and downy blue gentian.
Some or all areas of the preserve may be temporarily closed due to restoration efforts. The bison unit is closed to the public, but bison can be seen from other areas of the site.
Please call the Dunn Ranch office at (660) 867-3866 prior to your visit. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Check the local weather forecast and dress accordingly. Long pants and sleeves, hiking boots, drinking water, hat and compass are recommended. During warm weather, light color and light-weight clothing is suggested. Repellent, binoculars, and field guide(s) are also worth bringing.
Take I-35 to the Eagleville exit