Why You Should Visit
The best example of native prairie remaining in the central Willamette Valley, Kingston Prairie Preserve opens a window into Oregon's past. Unsuitable for farming due to the basalt bedrock that underlays shallow soils, the preserve has retained much of its original prairie vegetation in both wet and drier upland areas.
Native prairie once covered more than a million acres of the Willamette Valley, but today less than one-half of one percent is left. Prairie grasslands and oak savannas were maintained by fires set by Native Americans who gathered food plants and hunted game in the open habitats.
Three miles southeast of Stayton, in Northwest Oregon
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Wildlife biologists have used the preserve to study habitat needs of western meadowlark and other songbirds known to be declining in the Willamette Valley. Ecologists monitor the rare plant populations and are working to restore native prairie species to disturbed areas of the preserve.
Conservancy staff and partners are thinning ground cover and restoring nutrients to the soil with controlled burns to combat invasive weeds and stimulate native plant growth. Teams of volunteers are removing invasive Scots broom and Himalayan blackberry from the preserve during spring and summer.
What to See: Plants
The wet meadows are dominated by tufted hairgrass, while the dry uplands are dominated by Idaho fescue. Both prairie types, as well as associated transition zones, host a thriving diversity of native wildflowers. In the spring, common camas and shooting stars are abundant. Rare species include Bradshaw's lomatium, Willamette daisy, Oregon larkspur and white-topped aster.
What to See: Animals
The western meadowlark, Oregon's state bird, can be observed nesting on the preserve, one of few remaining nesting sites in the central Willamette Valley.
Please observe the following guidelines while hiking:
- Stay on the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers.
- No dogs. Preserves harbor ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to disturbance.
- No bicycles or motorized vehicles. Native plants and research sites are easily trampled.
- No hunting, camping or campfires.
- For groups of 10 or more, please contact us before visiting a preserve (a volunteer naturalist guide may be available).
- Please bring a bag and carry out any trash you find.
- Please report to us any problems you observe (e.g., camping, plant removal, hunting, off-road vehicle damage, etc).
From the North:
- Take Highway 22 E from Salem (Exit 253 off I-5) 12 miles to Stayton.
- After passing through Stayton, cross the North Santiam River at the south end of town, and turn left onto Kingston-Jordan Drive.
- After one mile, the road turns south (right) and crosses a railroad track. Take the next left (Kingston-Lyons Drive).
- After about 1.7 miles this road takes a 90-degree turn right (south) while a gravel road continues straight (east). Park on a turnout at this juncture.
- A portion of the preserve is immediately south of the gravel road and east of Kingston-Lyons road. This is the Ralph and Florence Roberts Memorial Tract. The other portions of the preserve are on the west side of Kingston-Lyons Road.
From the South:
- Take Exit 238 off I-5. Turn right onto Jefferson Highway.
- Just after crossing the Santiam River, turn right onto Jefferson-Scio Drive.
- After about 5 miles, veer left onto Shelburn Drive.
- Continue for 6 miles, then turn northeast (left) onto Stayton-Scio Road.
- After 3 miles, turn right onto Kingston-Jordan Drive.
- Take the next left onto Kingston-Lyons Drive.
- After 1.7 miles, park at the turnout.