A protected area north of Jefferson City where you can find grassland sparrows, nesting warblers, and many other birds.
By Henry Domke | Published: 2/12/2016
My parents moved to this property in central Missouri in 1971 and soon began adding vegetation and ponds to the landscape. In 1986, they embarked on the long process of replanting old fescue fields with a diverse mix of grasses and flowers, restoring a bit of the native prairies that once covered a third of Missouri. In 2010, a nonprofit foundation, the Prairie Garden Trust, was established to protect the land. Today anyone can enjoy it.
We call the property a nature garden because it has the beauty of native plants without the messiness of nature untended. The “displays” vary by season: flowering dogwood, redbud, Virginia bluebells, and phlox in the early spring, then purple coneflowers and butterfly weed as the prairie blooms in June, and blazing star and lotus in July.
More than 135 bird species have been spotted. We have 63 nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, a growing population of Northern Bobwhite, and nesting warblers, including Kentucky and Worm-eating. Once you step into the garden, you can leave the urban world behind and hear the calls of a Wood Thrush, smell the scent of plum in bloom, and see stunning views from moss- and lichen-covered limestone bluffs. — Henry Domke
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Restored tallgrass prairie, riparian corridor with surrounding rocky bluffs, upland oak-hickory forest, ponds, and creeks.
Mostly gently rolling hills. A half-mile, wheelchair-accessible paved trail and about 10 miles of mowed walking trails. Bluffs overlooking the creek are 100 feet above a valley.
More than 135 species. Grasslands: Eastern Bluebird, Sedge Wren, Henslow’s, Grasshopper, Chipping, and Field Sparrows, Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, Prairie Warbler, Northern Bobwhite. Woodlands: Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, nesting warblers, including Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Blue-winged, Black-and-white, Kentucky, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, and Yellow-breasted Chat, Red-headed and other woodpeckers, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow- and Black-billed Cuckoos. Waterbirds: Great Blue Heron (rookery), Green Heron, and Wood Duck. Unusual: Hooded Merganser, Black-crowned Night-Heron.
When to go
Spring through fall.
Visitor center. Bird walks in spring. Benches along trails. No food or drink (other than tap water).
Nonprofit nature center. No fees. Open March through November. Schedule visits by calling or emailing first. No camping or pets.
To avoid chiggers and ticks, wear boots or sturdy shoes and spray your socks or slacks with bug repellent. Wear a hat.
For more info
Little Dixie Lake Conservation Area
About 26 miles north of garden on Hwy. J. A large lake and surrounding grasslands and forests attract about 220 bird species.
Runge Conservation Nature Center
330 Commerce Dr. in Jefferson City. Approximately 100 acres. Great for spring and summer songbirds and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.