Pawhuska Prairie

Prairie Plants
Prairie Plants

Points of Interest:

  • Enjoy a prairie that would have been a common sight to the Osage Indians.
  • See a procession of wildflowers throughout the growing season.
  • Visit an unusual prairie seep that supports interesting wetland plants.

Natural History:

A tallgrass prairie remnant on soils derived from shale and sandstone. Like many southwest Missouri prairies this was a hay meadow before The Nature Conservancy purchased the site in 1973 using funds from Katharine Ordway, a wealthy woman who donated millions of dollars toward the preservation of the tallgrass prairie throughout the midwest and great plains states. The shallow soils over sandstone rock spared this prairie from being plowed.

Here big and little bluestem, Indian grass, and many prairie wildflowers (e.g., lead plant, pale purple coneflower, compass plant, goat’s rue, prairie blazing star, New Jersey tea, downy sunflower, blue sage, sensitive briar, and Missouri goldenrod) sway in the breeze the way they have for centuries. Prairies such as this would have been a common sight to Pawhuska (the prairie’s namesake), an Osage Indian name (meaning “white-haired) used by three Osage chiefs in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Osage hunted bison and elk on these prairies until the 1820s.

Here in Barton County was the largest amount of prairie in Missouri, with 86% of the county prairie in the 1820s. When Joseph Brown surveyed the western boundary of Missouri in 1823 he summarized it as five to six miles of timber in the vicinity of present day Kansas City, otherwise all prairie except for very narrow strips of timber along the creeks all the way south to Shoal Creek in Jasper County just south of Joplin.

A small spring on this prairie provides habitat for Harvey’s beak-rush, a rare prairie wetland species. The area is used by Henslow’s sparrow, dickcissel, field sparrow, scissor-tailed flycatcher, and eastern kingbird. Coyote, turkey, and deer can also be seen.

Access Information: 

From Lamar go about eight miles east on Highway 160 to Highway HH. Turn left (north) on to Highway HH and go three miles north. Then turn west (left) on to NE 30th Road (gravel). Go about 0.6 mile west to the sign and parking area at the north end of the preserve. Walk south into the prairie. Hunting is prohibited.

General Information
Designation Date: 
The Nature Conservancy
Missouri Department of Conservation – Southwest Regional Office, The Nature Conservancy – St. Louis Office
Contact Phone: 
417-895-6880, 314-968-1105

Get more information from the MDC Atlas.

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