North Dakota

Davis Ranch

Why You Should Visit
Davis Ranch is one of the largest prairie landscapes in the Missouri Coteau. It is a mosaic of high quality northern mixed-grass prairie studded with fresh, alkaline, ephemeral and permanent wetlands. The impact of human activities has been very light in this place, with even surrounding agricultural areas having a low human population density. More than any other Conservancy preserve in North Dakota, Davis Ranch retains the "feel" and scale of the native prairie.

Davis Ranch is located 5 miles south of Denhoff ND or 14 miles north of Wing, ND. It is situated in a narrow (3-4 miles wide) ridge of low hills that rise more than 100 feet above agricultural lands to the west and east.

Plan Your Visit
For more information on visiting this and other North Dakota preserves, check out our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.

The overall size of Davis Ranch including the portion that was once called the Sheridan Preserve is 7,017 acres. It is the largest Conservancy Preserve in North Dakota. It extends six miles in a north-south direction and averages about 1.5 miles in width.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Large, high quality examples of several community types led the Conservancy to this site. The conservation targets include pothole wetlands, silverberry shrubland, western wheatgrass grassland, and needlegrass grassland.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Nature Conservancy acquired Davis Ranch in 1997 and since then has been developing a stewardship program at the preserve. Our management has been focused in three areas:

  1. We have been developing a grazing system where domestic cattle are used to mimic the historic grazing patterns of bison.
  2. In an effort to discourage woody plant encroachment and begin the reduction of smooth brome, we have initiated a prescribed burn plan.
  3. We are continuing to develop an integrated weed management program focused on controlling leafy spurge. We are spraying known spurge patches twice a year, and have released specalized-feeding flea beetles as a means of biological control.


What to See: Plants
The vegetation on Davis Ranch consists of high qualityu examples of northern mixed grass prairie. Shortgrass prairie species are found in the shallow soil areas on the tops of hills, midheight species on hillsides and flat uplands, and tallgrass species on deep soils of lowlands. Dominant shortgrasses include buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis). The dominant midheight grasses include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and the introduced smooth brome (Bromus inermis). The tallgrass dominants include big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and cordgrass (Spartina pectinata).

What to See: Animals
Davis Ranch is part of the "prairie pothole" region, an area renowned for its production of waterfowl. In fact, the Davis Ranch area includes some of the best waterfowl breeding habitat in the prairie pothole region. Besides waterfowl, Davis Ranch also is home to a high diversity of other birds. Included are a number of uncommon prairie species including Sprague’s pipit, Baird’s sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, chestnut collared longspur, black tern, ferruginous hawk, Swainson’s hawk, upland plover, willet and marbled godwits.

There are no facilities at the preserve and it is located in an isolated location. Bring everything you will need including adequate water and other supplies. The nearest facilities and supplies are in McClusky or Goodrich, some 18 miles away.

The entire preserve is leased to local neighbors for cattle grazing. Please leave all gates as you find them and take care to avoid damaging fences.

The preserve is open to public walk-in hunting during the Fall hunting season. Please review our Hunting and Fishing Policy in North Dakota in advance.


From the north, leave the junction of Highways 14 and 200 near Denhoff and proceed south about 8.8 miles to a gravel road heading west (the road is located on the south side of Sperry Lake). The Davis Ranch boundary starts at the west edge of Highway 14. Head west 0.5 to 1.5 miles into the preserve to the designated parking areas.

From the south, leave the junction of Highways 14 and 36 in Wing and proceed north about 15.5 miles to the gravel road mentioned above.


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!

comments powered by Disqus

Read our guidelines on posting comments