Points of Interest:
• Enjoy prairie wildflowers from spring through fall.
• Spot prairie bird species including the Henlsow’s sparrow, scissor-tailed flycatcher, and dickcissel throughout the summer.
• Keep your eyes peeled for ornate box turtles and western slender glass lizards in the summer.
Natural History: This remnant tallgrass prairie contains dry-mesic upland prairie developed from shale and sandstone bedrock derived soils. The prairie is dominated by the “big four” native prairie grasses, big and little bluestem, Indian grass, and switch grass. This prairie is typical of most remnant prairies in the Osage Plains region in that it has areas of more shallow to bedrock soils which helped to save it from being plowed and converted to row crops. The prairie is named after the Osage Indian tribe, the Native Americans who lived in this region of Missouri at the time of European settlement. Today the Osage Nation tribal headquarters is in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Prior to its ownership by The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Department, the area had been hayed and grazed. Today Conservation Department staff use a combination of haying, prescribed fire and controlled grazing in managing remnant prairies. Research at this prairie and others has shown that annual haying is not the best management regime for our prairies.
Over 300 mainly native plant species occur here. Look for the blooms of prairie grass pink orchid, Indian paintbrush, large-flowered coreopsis, prairie parsley, funnel-form beard tongue, pale purple coneflower, lead plant, prairie blazing star, Sampson’s snakeroot, goat’s rue, rigid goldenrod, and azure aster. An abundance of wildflowers leads to an abundance of insects, including the regal fritillary butterfly, a species of conservation concern found here.
Parts of this prairie developed on shale based soils have a claypan and are called “hardpan” prairies. Hardpan prairies typically have saturated soils in the early spring that can become rock hard by the summer. Along lower slopes, in swales, and hardpan prairies with a perched water table, the grassland crayfish digs burrows about two inches in diameter and up to four feet deep down to the water table. The burrows sometimes have a “chimney” above ground. The northern crawfish frog, a species of conservation concern, uses these crayfish burrows for its dwelling too. Thirty-two amphibian and reptile species have been observed at Osage Prairie. Ten small mammal species have been documented including the prairie vole and western harvest mouse. Keep your eyes open for coyote, badger, and many grassland birds: Henslow’s sparrow, dickcissel, scissor-tailed flycatcher, field sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, upland sandpiper, and the eastern kingbird. In the winter northern harriers and short-eared owls often inhabit the prairie.
From Nevada, drive south on Highway 71 for about 6 miles. Turn right (west) onto gravel County Road 634 (Talley Bend Road). Head west on County Road 634 for about 0.5 mile and turn left (south) onto County Road 583 (1735 Road). Follow County Road 583 south for 1 mile (crossing Landon Branch) and you will be at the northeast corner of the natural area. You may park along the side of the gravel road and walk into the prairie from a number of locations. Bring a map and compass for exploration. Hunting and fishing are permitted.