Harrison County gains 160 acres for Pawnee Prairie Conservation Area

Missouri Department of Conservation Sign
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The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved the purchase of land in Harrison County. The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that this involves approximately 160 acres as an addition to the Pawnee Prairie Conservation Area.

This area represents the once vast, rolling prairie of Northwest Missouri. Plants and animals unique to a tallgrass prairie ecosystem survive on portions of the area that have never been plowed. The remainder of the area is in various stages of prairie restoration. The area is part of the larger Grand River Grasslands Conservation Opportunity Area. The wide variety of grassland wildlife, especially birds, found here, as well as tracts of unplowed prairie, indicate this is the best area in northern Missouri to restore a functioning tallgrass prairie ecosystem on a landscape scale.

The Missouri Department of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and interested private landowners are working cooperatively to restore prairie in this landscape.

Periodic prescribed burning is used to preserve and maintain the prairie, taking the place of the periodic wildfires that once maintained the landscape. Fire invigorates the prairie, stifles the growth of undesirable species, and makes the area more attractive to grassland wildlife.

Pawnee Prairie Natural Area is noted for a variety of grassland birds from late May until early July, such as bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, and upland sandpipers. It has an abundance of sedge wrens in late July and August. The part of the prairie with the greatest variety of plants is about one-half mile from the parking lot on a northeast slope on both sides of the field road through the area.

From the intersection of Highway 46 and Highway U, travel west about 2 miles into the town of Hatfield and turn left (south) onto West 140th Avenue (which turns to gravel). Travel south on the gravel road for about half a mile, and the parking lot will be on the left (east) side of the road. Walk east into the prairie. Bring a map and compass for exploration. Hunting and fishing are permitted.

More information on the Pawnee Prairie Conservation Area is available at this link.

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