Green frog in The Land of the Swamp White Oak
Green Frog Green frog in The Land of the Swamp White Oak © Ryan Rasmussen/TNC

Places We Protect

Iowa

Swamp White Oak Preserve

Swamp White Oak contains a variety of amphibians and reptiles.

Swamp White Oak is one of the best examples of a swamp white oak savanna, once common in floodplains of the Midwest. These communities host a great diversity of plant and animal species, but are now extremely rare. Most savannas like this one have been either overgrown due to lack of fire and grazing, which changes the forest composition and species, or have been cut down for agricultural purposes. Of those that remain, few are recognized for what they are-an extremely rare type of woodland.

Why You Should Visit

The Swamp White Oak Preserve’s high water table and frequent flooding support one of the best known examples of the globally rare swamp white oak woodland community. Numerous uncommon plant and animal species are present.

Location

Muscatine County, near the Cedar River.

Conditions

Swamp White Oak Preserve is an open savanna dominated by swamp white oak and bur oak trees. It sits on a low sand terrace along the Cedar River.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The first tract of Swamp White Oak Preserve, located west of Muscatine, was purchased by the Conservancy in 1998. Funding for the acquisition was by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust and the Muscatine Prairie Endowment. A second addition in 2008 was purchased and is located just north of the original parcel. This parcel was also supported by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, The Muscatine Prairie Endowment, The Maytag Family Trust, The Howe Foundation, The Alliant Energy Foundation, Jim and Tamara Stein and an anonymous donor.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Prescribed fire is being reintroduced as a management tool and control measures are underway to halt the encroachment of undesirable trees and brush. Clearing of ‘weedy’ trees and treatment of reed canary grass outbreaks has recently occurred with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Upper Mississippi River Watershed Fund. A kiosk, donated by the Bernard and Jennifer Knorr Honorarium, is being constructed on the site to keep people updated about ongoing efforts at the preserve and in the region.

What to See: Plants

The preserve’s plant life is dominated by the complex interactions of the plentiful swamp white oaks with a diverse sedge-dominated understory. The plant communities range from sand prairie with wild petunias and leatherleaf to wetlands with blueflag iris and water crowfoot, to wooded areas with bloodroot, green dragon, bluebells and trout lily. More than 320 plant species have been documented at the preserve, but some estimates suggest that as many as 500 species may be present.

What to See: Animals

The diverse wetlands, sedge-dominated woodlands and dry sand prairie ridges support an array of amphibians and reptiles, including the stinkpot turtle, smallmouth salamander, central newt and massasauga rattlesnake. Birds include the prothonotary warblers, cerulean warblers, sandhill cranes and red-shouldered hawks.

Preserve Visitation Guidelines