This gorgeous area features a sweeping 3,000 acres of tallgrass prairie, including 1,800 acres of prairie that have never been plowed. Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie is a 3,030-acre tallgrass prairie that straddles Cedar and St. Clair counties. It was named in honor of the Osage tribe of Native Americans that lived in this area of the Osage Plains in large numbers prior to European settlement. Wah’Kon-Tah means great spirit or great mystery.
Mid-June is one of the best times to visit prairies in Missouri, and Wah’Kon-Tah is no exception. During a walk at daybreak or resting atop a high spot, you will see rare grassland birds vocalizing and displaying their breeding plumage, large fields of blooming wildflowers, and an abundance of prairie insects. It’s also a nice time to explore the prairie headwater streams where you can find pools with small fish and amphibians.
Roughly 1,800 of the 3,030 acres are native remnant tallgrass prairie, which have never been heavily disturbed or converted to another land use. These areas contain well over 200 species of native prairie plants. Area staff are working to restore the other 1,300 acres to native prairie conditions by planting seed collected from the remnant portions of the prairie.
Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie is in the transition zone of the tallgrass prairies of the Osage Plains and the woodlands of the Ozark Highlands. Because of this unique juxtaposition, there are pockets of savanna and woodland along the boundaries of the area.
The management goal for Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie is to provide the proper habitat for all species that depend on the area to survive. Although the landscape is very different than it was before European settlement, staff use processes such as burning and grazing that historically shaped the prairie vegetation, prevented encroachment of trees, and provided a variety of habitat for prairie plants and animals. Each type of management, including purposefully leaving idle areas, is done in small chunks scattered across the area. The result is a mosaic of different habitats, which is very important for species, such as greater prairie-chickens, that require varied accommodations throughout the year.
Other prairie species that call Wah’Kon-Tah home are the regal fritillary butterfly, northern crayfish frog, Henslow’s sparrow, pink katydid, short-eared owl, pale purple coneflowers, prairie violets, and many more.
—Matt Hill, area manager
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler