found at Swamp White Oak Preserve
Green Tree Frog found at Swamp White Oak Preserve © Ryan Rasmussen/TNC

Places We Protect

Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve

Iowa

Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve is home to a wide variety of amphibians and reptiles.

Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve contains one of the best remaining examples of floodplain oak savanna. Most savannas have either become overgrown due to lack of ecological disturbance such as fire and grazing or have been cut down for agricultural purposes. The dominant canopy species in the savanna are swamp white oak, bur oak and hickory, with prairie crabapple, downy hawthorn and redbud filling in the mid-story. The ground cover species vary significantly with changes in topography, soils and canopy cover, but includes a diverse array of grasses, sedges and forbs.

The preserve is also home to a series of unique wetland features including globally rare channel fens. These fens formed in abandoned river channels, also called oxbows, filled with peat or muck soils. Spring flow emanating from the base of the bluff slowed the decomposition of dead vegetation, allowing the muck soils to accumulate over the course of thousands of years, forming a thick floating mat of vegetation over the surface of the oxbow.

Several alluvial streams meander through the preserve. For most of the year, these streams are very slow-moving and provide habitat for rare fish like pirate perch and grass pickerel.

The Nature Conservancy continues to work with nearby landowners who voluntarily choose to protect their land through sales and donations both in-fee and through conservation easements. Our land stewards are working to restore and maintain the ecological communities found here through adaptive management tools such as prescribed fire, conservation grazing and weed management. We are actively trying to connect more people to nature through educational and experiential use of the preserve. We utilize a collaborative approach to engage with farmers, landowners, community leaders, business leaders, educators, and other stakeholders in the conservation of this important place.

What to See: Plants

In addition to the namesake trees, the herbaceous plant communities range from sand prairie with prairie junegrass, hairy wild petunias, whorled milkweed and leatherleaf clematis to wetlands with blueflag iris ­ swamp milkweed and water crowfoot, to wooded areas with Virginia wildrye, Gray’s sedge, green dragon, bluebells and trout lily. More than 440 plant species have been documented, with many portions of the preserve yet to be fully surveyed.

What to See: Animals

The diverse wetlands, woodlands and open meadows support an array of amphibians and reptiles, including the Blanding’s and stinkpot turtles, smallmouth salamanders, central newts and massasauga rattlesnakes. Birds include the red-headed and pileated woodpeckers, wood ducks, prothonotary warblers, cerulean warblers, sandhill cranes and red-shouldered hawks.

Preserve Visitation Guidelines

Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve is open to the public for passive recreational opportunities such as hiking, paddling and wildlife watching. Off-road vehicles, pets, camping or campfires are not permitted. Visitors are expected to respect preserve boundaries and stay off neighboring lands. 

Hunting, fishing, trapping, and collecting are by permission ONLY.

PLEASE NOTE: Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve is almost entirely located within the floodplain of the Cedar River. For the safety of yourself and others, please stay off the preserve during flood events.

Swamp White Oak Access Point
Swamp White Oak access point is the primary access point to this unique preserve.
Maytag Access Point
Maytag access point is a secondary access point to this preserve.

Locate Access Points to Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve There are multiple access points to Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve.

Support our work on the biologically diverse Land of the Swamp White Oak Preserve