MDC and Shaw Nature Reserve bring pioneer times to life at Prairie Day, Sept. 17

Published Date

GRAY SUMMIT, Mo.—Take a step anywhere in the St. Louis area today, and there’s a good chance that 200 hundred years ago it might have been on prairie grass.  Before European settlement, prairie land covered a large portion the Greater St. Louis area. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation and Shaw Nature Reserve are partnering to present Prairie Day Saturday, Sept. 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The biennial event will take place at Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit. 

Prairie Day is a celebration of the nature and culture of our grassland heritage.  Shaw’s 250-acre restored prairie is the backdrop for a day of fun and educational activities for the whole family where visitors can relive the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

There will be plenty to do—from stepping inside an authentic Native American tepee or a sod house to witnessing a blacksmith practice his ancient trade.  Visitors can watch bow-and-arrow makers and flint knappers hone their historic skills, learn the secrets of basket weavers and quilters, and try their hand at an old-fashioned butter churn. 

There will be hay wagon rides and opportunities to play traditional pioneer games like “rabbit sticks,” plus throwing the atlatl and tomahawk.  Visitors will have the chance to learn living history first-hand from a mountain man and re-enactors of other early prairie inhabitants.  MDC will bring live reptiles and there will also be mammal pelts for the public to view.

Prairie Day offers a way to learn the natural history of the Great Plains first hand. Find out about the plants and animals of the of the tallgrass prairie.  Interpreters will engage visitors with educational presentations on ways Native Americans and pioneers used native edible and medicinal plants. Naturalists will guide visitors on hikes to learn about the prairie and its unique natural characteristics. Displays will allow the public to discover how to attract fun-to-watch wildlife by including native plants in landscapes. Visitors will be able to choose from a wide assortment of prairie wildflowers and grasses available for purchase from a local native plant nursery.

Kids can participate to earn wooden nickels to spend for prizes at the trading post. Live bands will entertain the crowds with a variety of modern and traditional folk tunes. Food will be available for sale including bison burgers and a variety of homemade baked goods.       

Advanced reservation is not required. The Shaw Nature Reserve admission fee is $6 for adults, $2 for children (ages 15 and under) and $3 for Missouri Botanical Garden members. Visit  or call 636-451-3512 for more information.

The Shaw Nature Reserve is located on the south side of I-44 at exit #253 in Gray Summit, less than 10 miles past the Six Flags exit and only a 40-minute drive from the Metro St. Louis area.

Prairie Day is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation and Shaw Nature Reserve, a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden.