The tallgrass prairie holds a special place in Missouri’s history, and native grasslands also continue to play a role in modern agriculture today. The state’s grassland legacy and future will be celebrated at a free Prairie Day event 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, at Dunn Ranch Prairie and Pawnee Prairie in Harrison County.
Prairie Day is hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Missouri Master Naturalists.
“We want people to come out and see how magnificent the prairie is,” said TJ Peacher, MDC Outreach and Education district supervisor. “We want them to have a closeup look at birds, butterflies, and bison.”
Visitors are welcome to take a wagon tour of the Dunn Ranch Prairie bison herd, courtesy of TNC. The Conservancy owns Dunn Ranch Prairie, a property with both unplowed prairie and restored native grasslands. Bison graze among the wildflowers and grasses, as they did in centuries past, and bison are part of the TNC’s prairie restoration strategy.
Dunn Ranch Prairie is part of the Grand River Grasslands, a partnership between MDC, TNC, private landowners, and other conservation entities in Missouri and neighboring Iowa. The goal is to partner together to restore a naturally functioning grassland ecosystem compatible with the area’s ranching and farming on private lands.
Prairie Day will celebrate MDC’s success in working with private landowners to restore and manage healthy grasslands. MDC’s staff has helped landowners implement conservation practices for pastures and hayfields. They are working with 26 landowners in the Grand River Grasslands this year.
The event will also mark the 20-year anniversary of TNC’s ownership of Dunn Ranch Prairie. TNC is a key partner in efforts to restore sustainable populations of prairie-chickens on grasslands and Topeka shiner minnows in prairie streams. Both are endangered species in Missouri.
“This year’s event is special as we look back on and showcase years of restoration at Dunn Ranch Prairie and the collaborations with partners and the community that has helped us get here,” said Kent Wamsley, TNC’s grasslands and sustainable agriculture strategy manager. “With only one percent of native tallgrass prairie left in Missouri, it’s important that we protect this iconic landscape that provides ecological benefits to both people and nature.”
Prairie Day will celebrate those partnerships. Visitors can learn about profitable pasture management practices for haying and grazing that use native grasses and forbs. An MDC natural history biologist will lead a wildflower walk for visitors to see and identify flowers in bloom and other prairie plants. Experts will present talks and displays about prairie critters. The role of prairie streams and the aquatic life they hold will be showcased in exhibits. Visitors can see displays about prairie ecology and purchase native plant seedlings for transplanting. It’s also a chance for people to get tips from experts about establishing native warm-season grasses or wildflowers on farms or home gardens.
Visitors will have an opportunity to camp on Friday, Sept. 13, near the Dunn Ranch Prairie headquarters office. Camping is free. There will be a social event and nature documentary film in the evening.
The Prairie Day activities on Sept. 14 will begin with a sunrise birding walk from 7 to 9:30 a.m. at MDC’s Pawnee Prairie Conservation Area, which is near Dunn Ranch Prairie. Experts from Missouri Master Naturalists will lead the walk.
Prairie Day is a free, family-friendly event open to all ages. The North Harrison Fire Protection District based at Eagleville will sell hamburgers and hot dogs and proceeds will benefit the district. Beef for the hamburgers will come from the Audubon Conservation Ranching program, which helps ranchers implement pasture management practices that benefit grassland birds.
Dunn Ranch Prairie is located west of Eagleville at 16970 W 150th St., Hatfield, Mo., 64458. A tent and displays will be set up near the shelter house north of the ranch headquarters.
For more information about Prairie Day, or to register for camping, call 816-271-3100.