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Missouri

Grand River Grasslands: Dunn Ranch Prairie & Pawnee Prairie




Open to the Public

Yes

Things To Do

Hiking, bird watching, wildflower viewing, exploring. View All

Plan Your Visit

Tips and guidelines for visiting this preserve. View All

Get Directions

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. 

Why You Should Visit 

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. See the Dunn Ranch Prairie tour schedule.

Location

Harrison County, north of Bethany

Hours

Daylight

Size

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.

Conditions

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.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

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 plot 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.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

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.

Photos

Click to enlarge

Prairie chickens "boom" at Dunn Ranch Prairie every spring.

Click to enlarge

Native prairie milkweed can be found at Dunn Ranch Prairie.

View a slideshow

Thousands of pounds of native seed are harvested and sown every year at Dunn Ranch Prairie.

Video

Bison at Dunn Ranch

Hear the story of Dunn Ranch Prairie and find out how bison were returned to the landscape.

Prairie Chickens

"Living St. Louis" producer Jim Kirchherr travels to Dunn Ranch Prairie to watch these rare birds perform their 'booming' mating ritual.

Tours are available in the spring and summer, but space is very limited! Check out our tour schedule.
What to See: Animals 

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. A small minnow, the Topeka shiner, was reintroduced into prairie streams in 2013.

What to See: Plants 

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 Prairie 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.

Preserve Visitation Guidelines

Directions

Take I-35 to the Eagleville exit

  • Travel west on Highway N, and continue until you come to Highway 69
  • Turn right (North) for a short distance to Highway M, just beyond the
    Community Center on your right
  • Turn left on Highway M and take it to Dunn Ranch Prairie
  • Travel Highway M for 5-7 miles to West 180th Street and turn right. 
    The property on both sides of the road is Dunn Ranch Prairie.
Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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