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
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.
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.
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:
From the North:
From the South: