Places We Protect

Knapp Prairie


Pale Purple coneflower. © Taryn Samuels/TNC

This preserve contains a variety of tallgrass prairie species and butterflies.



More than 900 regal fritillaries, orange and yellow butterflies, have been observed in a single survey at Knapp prairie, making it one of the largest U.S. populations of this butterfly. The Conservancy harvests seeds from the plants that attract these butterflies for use in restoring other prairies in the area.

Why You Should Visit

Knapp Prairie Preserve is dominated by tallgrass prairie species adapted to deeper, mesic loess soils. Knapp Prairie is also an important prairie butterfly conservation area.


Plymouth County, 3 ½ hours northwest of Des Moines.


The terrain is steep and rugged in places and predominantly grasslands. Expect to see snakes, insects, grassland birds and breathtaking vistas while you hike.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Knapp Prairie was donated to the Conservancy by Barry and Carolyn Knapp in 1997. It is a rare example of mesic Loess Hills prairie growing on the lower portions of moderate slopes, saved from conversion to row crops or brome pasture by the tradition of cutting prairie hay.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

This site is an important seed source for the reconstruction of lower slopes and valleys at other nearby preserves.



Explore our work in this region

What to See: Plants

Plants here include: big bluestem, fringed puccoon, ground plum, heath aster, Indian grass, lead plant, little bluestem, New Jersey tea, prairie larkspur, purple prairie clover, prairie turnip, prairie violet, purple coneflower, purple locoweed, rough blazing star, sideoats grama, silky aster, snow-on-the-mountain, toothed evening primrose and stiff goldenrod.

What to See: Animals

Birds here include dickcissel, eastern meadowlark and western kingbird. There are many butterflies, including monarch, orange-margined blue, wood nymph or grayling, regal fritillary and Ottoe skipper.

Visitation Guidelines

Please download our preserve visitation guidelines here.