Willa Cather Memorial Prairie
The Cather Foundation acquired the 608-acre Willa Cather Memorial Prairie in the spring of 2006 in order to restore and conserve the rare native grasses, plant life, and wildlife of its delicate ecology.
Noticeable changes since the acquisition include the removal of over 1300 non-native trees that inhibit the growth of indigenous plants such as the purple prairie clover, purple coneflower, big bluestem, and more. Cather’s beloved, native cottonwoods remain.
The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie, which marks several transition points that create a unique location—one that brings together species at the southern edge of their range as well as those at the northern edge of their range. We estimate 250 (or more) reliant plant species, including the rare Fremont's evening primrose and Fendler's aster—both of which are potential candidates for "threatened" status by the Nebraska Natural Heritage Program.
We are trying to return this land to its pre-1900 conditions, a time before overgrazing, farming, and the encroachment of man and foreign plant species.
This restoration and conservation process is integral in fostering the mission statement of the Cather Foundation. The preservation of the Prairie is part of a holistic approach to the study of America’s art, history, and culture through the works of Willa Cather, who was a great champion of prairie lands. As John Bergson observes in O Pioneers!, “the land wanted to be left alone, to preserve its own fierce strength, its peculiar, savage kind of beauty, its uninterrupted mournfulness;” we strive to be a part of the land’s struggle back to itself.
The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie is home to a variety of beautiful bird species, and is recognized as a Nebraska Bird Site by the Nebraska Teaming with Wildlife Coalition. On the Prairie, bird watchers can view meadowlarks, upland pulvers, blue birds, assorted sparrows, grouse, turkeys, orchard orioles, and more. For additional information, visit www.nebraskabirdingtrails.com