Little bluestem
Little bluestem Little bluestem © Chris Helzer / The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect


Cedar Hills Sand Prairie

This 90-acre preserve contains a large variety of prairie plants and birds.

Cedar Hills Sand Prairie is located near Cedar Falls, Iowa and contains a remnant sand prairie. The Conservancy works in cooperation with the University of Northern Iowa in managing this unique habitat.

Why You Should Visit

The diverse habitats of Cedar Hills Sand Prairie support more than 360 species of native plants, 107 species of diatoms (a delicate unicellular organism with yellow-brown chloroplasts, which enables it to photosynthesize), more than 50 species of birds, more than 50 species of butterflies and more than 90 species of leafhoppers (a group of insects with many prairie specialists).

The preserve sits atop a broad eolian (wind deposited) sand ridge between the Cedar River and Beaver Creek. In the unplowed southern portion of the preserve, dry sand prairie occupies the upland ridges. A large sedge meadow with the inclusion of a small fen occupies a swale that crosses the property. Small marshes occupy depressions in the southwest portion of the property. Most of the northern portion was plowed at one time, but is in various stages of recovery.


About 10 miles northwest of Cedar Falls, in Black Hawk County

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Cedar Hills Sand Prairie was acquired from the Mark Family in 1985. The 36-acre virgin sand prairie on the southern portion of the preserve was purchased by the Conservancy in January 1985, and then dedicated in May 1985 as a biological and geological State Preserve. In September of 1985, the remaining 54 acres were purchased. 

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

This site is an invaluable resource for teaching and research at the University of Northern Iowa.

What to See: Plants

There are more than 360 native plants at Cedar Hills, including: big bluestem, sand milkweed, swamp aster, least grape fern, prairie sandreed, marsh marigold, rattle box, silky prairie clover, tall cotton-grass, lance-leaved goldenrod, bottle gentian, frost weed, rough blazing star, hairy puccoon, wild phlox, pink milkwort, little bluestem, prairie dropseed, purple meadow-rue, bird’s-foot violet.

What to See: Animals

Birds at the preserve include the grasshopper sparrow, bobolink, yellowthroat, savannah sparrow and eastern meadowlark. Visitors can also see monarch butterflies and the regal fritillary.

Preserve Visitation Guidelines