Places We Protect

Ordway Prairie


in the Ordway Prairie Preserve, Minnesota.
Studying prairie grass in the Ordway Prairie Preserve, Minnesota. © Wallace Dayton

The landscape of Ordway Prairie combines grasslands and woods in a mosaic representation.



The patchwork landscape of Ordway Prairie combines grasslands and woods in a mosaic representation of millions of acres in the Midwest, where competition between forest and prairie was intense. On top of Ordway's sharply rolling, glacially-deposited hills lies dry hill prairie. Visitors can enjoy a grand view of this prairie from the top of the hill at the historical marker. In late spring of some years, the tiny flowers of blue-eyed grass wash a light blue color over the steep grassy slopes in the southern and eastern parts of the preserve. As the bloom of blue-eyed grass fades through June, sweeps of prairie submerge the hills with a yellow glow, an especially wonderful sight on sunny days through early July.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The relatively undisturbed quality of Ordway Prairie's grasslands and wetlands attracted the Conservancy more than 30 years ago. Expanding towns and continuing agricultural pressure have made this site's protection a priority.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Ordway Prairie was assembled in the 1970s from land purchases and trades financed with funds provided by Katharine Ordway, who actively supported the preservation of outstanding prairie in Minnesota and throughout the Great Plains. Today, sections of the preserve are burned periodically to control smooth sumac, quaking aspen, and Kentucky bluegrass. Sumac and aspen must be further controlled by cutting and girdling. Ordway Prairie's five acres of fen are especially difficult to protect from woody encroachment. The fens' extreme wetness can prevent fire from being effective in controlling woody plants.




656 acres

Explore our work in this region

What to See: Plants

A good population of Hill's thistle (a species of state special concern) grows in the prairie, along with three grama grasses, prairie dropseed, prairie turnip, purple coneflower, prairie phlox, blazing stars, and asters. Scattered between the hill prairies are wetlands, including ponds, marshes, wet prairie, flooded willow thickets, and calcareous fens. Rare species in these wet areas include sterile sedge and whorled nut-rush (both listed as threatened) and white lady's slipper (a species of special concern).

What to See: Animals

Ordway is home to snails such as Vertigo tridenta, and butterflies like the regal fritillary, a species of special concern. The preserve originally supported the poweshiek skipper, a now federally endangered species, but it has not been documented here in recent years.

For more information on visiting this and other Minnesota preserves, check out our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.