Prairie Onion. Allium stellatum is a perennial found in rocky, sandy soil. © Bob Bork
Prairie Onion. Allium stellatum is a perennial found in rocky, sandy soil © Bob Bork

Places We Protect

Sioux Prairie Preserve

South Dakota

The Sioux Prairie harbors seasonal ponds that provide habitat for the diverse plants and animals.

The rolling landscape of Sioux Prairie harbors several seasonal ponds, which provide vital habitat for the diverse plants and animals living here. Sedges and bulrushes burst forth from these seasonal waters. Prairie grasses and wildflowers dominate the landscape.

Amid this abundance, grassland birds such as upland sandpipers, bobolinks, waterfowl and the occasional sharp-tailed grouse thrive.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Sioux Prairie and the smaller Aurora Prairie near Brookings are the Conservancy’s only preserves in the Big Sioux River valley region.  These prairies are unique because they lie within grassland complexes that were saved from agriculture conversion due to wet soils.  They are surrounded by lands that are used for grazing and haying.  Sioux and Aurora prairies provide critical standing upland prairie and wetland habitat.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Before becoming a preserve, this land was farmed. Since then, it has been managed with controlled fires. The only indication that this land once was inhabited is an old well site near the preserve’s north end. 

In recent years, the Conservancy has removed old tree groves, electrical poles and scattered woody species, while maintaining an intense controlled burn and weed control program, which is aimed at restoring the most degraded areas of the preserve.  A drive along the west side of the preserve displays a beautifully diverse native prairie. 

Plan Your Visit

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

Plants

More than 200 species of plants adorn Sioux Prairie. In springtime, the Pasque flower and prairie smoke create a purplish haze that blankets the uplands of the prairie while a tiny blue and gold starlike flower of blue-eyed grass bespangle the lowlands. The brilliant orange woodlily and popular black-eyed Susans dot the prairie in summer. Autumn brings a kaleidoscope of yellow goldenrods and sunflowers and purple flowered asters and ironweed.

Animals

Birds abound at Sioux Prairie. From the descending whistle of the upland sandpiper and the lonely cry of the sora rail to the bubbling of the bobolink, the open prairie is a haven for grassland birds.

Amid the dense vegetation of the Sioux Prairie, red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds build their nests alongside long-billed marsh wrens. Waterfowl and shorebirds frequently feed and rest on the temporary ponds found here.