One of the largest prairies in Iowa, outside of the Loess Hills, Steele Prairie “rivals the other four great remnant prairies in Iowa: Hayden, Caylor, Kalsow and Sheeder,” according to former Nature Conservancy trustee Dr. Roger Lammers.
The name honors the family who for generations hayed this prairie despite economic pressure to “improve” the pasture or develop cropland. In 1945, Iowa State professor Dr. Ayda Hayden, the pioneer protector of Iowa’s prairies, commented that this “was a fine example of true prairie. … a very colorful example of a rare and vanishing flora.”
The Nature Conservancy and the Iowa DNR bought the property from the Steele family in 1987 and it was dedicated as a state preserve.
The 200 acre prairie contains over 141 species of plants, 32 species of vertebrates and 17 species of butterflies. 80% of the site is dry prairie including Big bluestem, Indian grass, Porcupine grass and wildflowers like Purple prairie clover, Prairie phlox, Butterfly milkweed, and Mountain mint. The wet prairie sedge meadow includes sedges, Blue jointgrass and Prairie cordgrass. The Short-tailed Shrew and Meadow Jumping Mouse are found here, as are the Upland Sandpiper and Swamp Sparrow.
Driving Directions and other Information
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Take a short visit to Steele Prairie via video below!
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