The Conservancy's Four Canyon Preserve encompasses 4,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie, rugged canyons, and floodplain along the Canadian River in southern Ellis County. Scenic prairie ridges traverse the landscape, dissected by deep chinquapin oak-lined canyons draining to the river. These prairies provide habitat for a number of rare grassland birds, such as Cassin's sparrow and Swainson's hawk, and additional species of concern including reptiles like the Texas horned lizard, as well as numerous state-rare plants. The cool, wooded canyons stand in contrast to the surrounding prairies, and provide habitat for birds like red-bellied woodpecker and painted bunting. The Canadian River on the preserve provides habitat for the federally endangered least tern, the threatened Arkansas River shiner, as well as stopover habitat for migratory shorebirds including the sandhill crane.
Biodiversity Threats in the area include habitat fragmentation and loss, invasive plant species such as eastern redcedar, saltcedar, and old world bluestem, hydrologic alteration, and incompatible land management practices. One way to measure the success of efforts to restore biodiversity is to track species.
What TNC is Doing
We are working to restore ecological function and integrity to this landscape. Following an initial rest period, prescribed fire will be used to control the spread of invasive eastern redcedar and to manage the habitat for wildlife. Efforts are underway to remove exotic plants such as old world bluestem from native prairie areas and to clear saltcedar from the Canadian River floodplain.
In time, TNC will work cooperatively with other area landowners to conduct prescribed burns aimed at enhancing prairie habitat across the region. The critical habitat in and around the Four Canyon Preserve is home to one of Oklahoma's last remaining populations of the imperiled lesser prairie chicken. Successful management for this species will help sustain healthy populations of some of North America's most threatened grassland birds.
Access is limited to personnel and is open for public visitation during events hosted by The Nature Conservancy such as our field trips.