Freda Haffner Preserve

This area contains geological formations known as “kettleholes.” Historically, these were formed when giant blocks of ice from glaciers fell off and melted, making large bowl- shaped indentations in the ground. These unique geological formations make this preserve one of the more popular in the state. It often is used by schoolchildren, college students and many other groups to learn about prairie life. This site also is particularly distinctive and educational because the threatened prairie bush clover is found here.

Why You Should Visit

The natural communities here include the unique "kettle" wetland, dry gravel prairie to mesic prairie on the ridgetops and slopes, and wet mesic prairie and sedge meadow in the floodplain. The diversity of high-quality habitats supports more than 360 vascular plants, 34 bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) and numerous lichens.


Southwest of Okoboji, in Dickinson County, Iowa (15 minutes west of Spirit Lake)


110 acres


There are usually an abundance of ticks on the preserve, so take precautions to limit your exposure. The grassland community is mid-grass to tall grass prairie, with an excellent view of the Little Sioux River valley from the top of the kettlehole.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Freda Haffner Preserve protects one of Iowa’s best and largest glacial kettleholes and highly diverse native prairie communities, as well as several rare or endangered plants, mammals, birds and butterflies. The preserve was purchased in 1972 by the Conservancy with a gift from Freda Haffner and was named in her honor. In 1976 it was dedicated as a biological and geological State Preserve.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

More than 50 acres of prairie have been reconstructed on portions of the Preserve that had been cropped, using a diverse mix of prairie seed collected from the Preserve and Cayler Prairie (four miles to the north).

What to See: Plants

Plant life at Freda Haffner Preserve includes lead plant, big bluestem, wormwood, smooth blue aster, hairy gramma, bluejoint, purple coneflower, prairie smoke, blue flag, prairie bush clover, dotted blazing star, wood lily, locoweed, prairie phlox, little bluestem, compass plant, stiff goldenrod, Culver's root, prairie violet and death camas. 

What to See: Animals

Birds present at the preserve include the upland sandpiper, dickcissel and yellow warbler. Among the endangered species here are northern grasshopper mouse, upland plover, poweshiek skipperling and regal fritillary.

Preserve Visitation Guidelines


From Milford:

Take Highway 71 north to Highway 86.


Turn west and go one-and-one-half miles to 210th Street (by Oh Shuck’s Bait Shop).


Go west two-and-three-quarter miles to the parking area for the preserve on the north side of the road (Sign: Freda Haffner Preserve).


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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