Coreopsis at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie
Wah’Kon-Tah Preserve Coreopsis at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie © © Larry Nolan

Places We Protect

Wah’Kon-Tah

Missouri

Wah'Kon-Tah Prairie is the largest protected prairie complex in the Osage Plains.

Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie is a designated special focus area in which the Conservancy is working diligently to restore native grasslands.  This beautiful and open expanse of prairie is often dotted with wildflowers and other rare plants and animals.

The federally endangered American Burying Beetle was reintroduced at Wah'Kon-Tah Prairie in 2012.  The planned reintroduction is the result of partnerships with the Saint Louis Zoo's Center for American Burying Beetle Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Why You Should Visit 

Named in honor of the Osage people who formerly resided in this region, Wah'Kon-Tah means "great spirit". Here, male greater prairie chickens perform mating rituals on age-old dancing grounds called leks. Regal fritillary butterflies sip nectar from prairie flowers. The rare prairie mole cricket trumpets his courtship call in the spring twilight. Upland plovers, Henslow's sparrows and scissor-tailed flycatchers grace the airways. Deer, coyotes, fox, and the eastern cottontail forage among the asters, goldenrods, gentians, coneflowers, big bluestem and little bluestem.

Limited hunting is allowed; contact the St. Louis office for additional information at (314) 968-1105 or email missouri@tnc.org.

Conditions

The preserve is a tallgrass prairie, with 3'-4' tall grasses from late summer through fall.  Gently rolling hills make for a moderate hike. Summer is often very hot, with little shade. 

Why TNC Selected This Site  

The Nature Conservancy and its key partner, the Missouri Department of Conservation, are committed to recovering and maintaining viable occurrences of all of the natural communities and their component plants and animals at Wah'Kon-Tah, as well as the natural processes upon which they are dependent. Wah' Kon-Tah is one of the last functional prairie landscapes in the Osage Plains.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

In the 1970s, TNC purchased the first two tracts (640 acres), with funds provided by Ms. Katharine Ordway, land conservationist and heir to the 3M fortune. An acquisition in 1998 of 872 acres connected two prairie conservation areas, expanding Wah'Kon-Tah to 2,331 acres. This acquisition provided the critical mass necessary to begin large-scale recovery of tallgrass prairie. 

In late 2001, a transaction that included the acquisition of a 1,266-acre tract and the protection of 660 acres through a conservation easement, expanded the native grassland recovery effort at Wah'Kon-Tah.  Subsequent transactions resulted in the current acreage under protection. 

Currently, The Nature Conservancy and Missouri Department of Conservation are working in partnership to meet aggressive habitat restoration needs, including exotic species control, fire management, woody vegetation reduction, prairie restoration and a native seed co-op.

What to See: Animals

Wah' Kon-Tah provides breeding ground for the upland plover, Henslow's sparrow and the scissor-tailed flycatcher. This is the age-old dancing ground of the prairie chicken; in 2012 a five-year plan was completed, reestablishing a prairie chicken population at the site. Regal fritillary butterflies abound, and the endangered prairie mole cricket trumpets his courtship call in the spring twilight.

What to See: Plants

More than 300 native plants occur at Wah' Kon-Tah, including the federally-threatened Mead's milkweed.

Some or all parts of the preserve may be temporarily closed due to restoration efforts. Check the local weather forecast and dress accordingly. Long pants and sleeves, hiking boots, hat and drinking water are recommended. During warm weather light color and light-weight clothing is suggested. Repellent, binoculars and field guide(s) are also worth bringing.