Points of Interest:
- Explore a wild bottomland forest remnant with many sloughs.
- Hunt for wood ducks and other waterfowl in the sloughs.
- Look for a wide variety of migratory warblers in the spring.
Natural Features Description: Prairie Slough, from which the area takes its name, was a chute of the Mississippi River at the turn of the century. The majority of the area was on the east side of the chute and was an island. Natural river meandering and man's efforts have combined to shift the river flow away from the chute, resulting in a slough, a body of water blocked from the river on the upstream end, except during periods of flooding. The Mississippi River floods of 1993 and 1995 along with hydrologic changes in the river here due to our river management have impacted the tree species composition of the area by making the lower lying ground more wet than it was historically. Highly flood tolerant species including silver maple, green ash and cottonwood thrive on the lower ground of this area.
Narrow “ridges” in this floodplain support shellbark hickory, pin oak, and bur oak trees. Narrow sloughs run north-south throughout the area and hold water during wet winters and springs and when the Mississippi River is in flood. The larger sloughs hold water year round. Encircling the sloughs are thick stands of swamp privet, a species near the northern edge of its range here, and buttonbush. These shrub swamps and their associated sloughs with nearby cavity trees provide great habitat for the prothonotary warbler. Look for wood ducks and herons in the sloughs. In the spring migrating warblers pass through the area’s woods. In the winter bald eagles can be spotted here and the surrounding riverine habitats.
At dusk in the spring the chorus of gray treefrogs can be cacophonous.
This natural area is within Prairie Slough Conservation Area. The easiest way to access the area is by boat from the boat launch on Prairie Slough. From Elsberry travel north on Highway P 3.25 miles and turn right (east) onto a gravel road. Head east on the gravel road nearly a mile to the parking area and boat launch. From here you can launch a boat to cross the slough and access the bottomland forest. Alternatively, from Elsberry travel north on Highway P 5.25 miles and turn right (south) onto a gravel road. Head south on the gravel road nearly a half mile. Look for parking area pull outs on the right (west). Hunting and fishing are permitted on the natural area. A map and compass are recommended to explore this area.