Olson Nature Preserve
The Olson Nature Preserve (ONP) is truly a unique little corner of the world! Tucked into an area of approximately 112 acres, several interesting ecosystems invite further exploration. Located at the eastern edge of the Nebraska sandhills, characteristic blowouts and gullies comprise the western edge of the Preserve. A bur oak grove, clinging to the steep slope, borders the eastern edge of the sandhills. A person may observe typical prairie plants on the hot, dry sandhills, and walk just 100 meters or so to view ferns growing in the moist, cool forest. Wetlands, which fill the area at the base of the oak grove, abound with typical Loup River Watershed wetland plants and animals.
In 1992 a group of local citizens approached four beneficiaries of the Grant and Berenice Olson estate to request that an ecologically diverse portion of their 1,200 acre ranch be set aside for public use. Norm Smith of Albion directed an extensive feasibility study of the area to substantiate the need for this unique outdoor classroom. The beneficiaries unanimously agreed to the arrangement and in 1995 Prairie Plains Resource Institute took ownership of a 77-acre tract, and later worked out an agreement to lease an additional 35 acres from Niewohner Farms. Since that time the preserve has become a hub of activity for area schools, scouts and countless other groups.
ONP lies at the easternmost tip of the sandhills and includes more than a half-mile stretch of Beaver Creek, a perennial spring-fed stream that forms the geological boundary between the sandhills and the rolling loess hardlands to the east. Besides Beaver Creek, ONP's natural assets include a cottonwood grove, oxbow wetlands, lowland tallgrass and sandhills prairie, oak forest covering and extensive east-facing escarpment and a small sandy canyon area.
The ONP Land Stewards are educators and community members who take responsibility for overseeing the Preserve with the advice and leadership of Prairie Plains, ensuring that the outdoor classroom is serving its purpose.
Prescribed burning has been conducted on occasion, and many Scout projects, including cedar removal, trail design and bench and shelter construction have improved the condition and usability of the preserve. Grazing has also been used as a management tool.
Located 8 miles north of Albion, Nebraska, on Hwy 14, left on Y Road one mile to entrance gate.
Latitude/Longitude (NAD83): N41 47 59.8;W98 06 15.9
UTM (NAD83): Zone 14N; 574403 (easting), 4627951 (northing)
- See an aerial photo of Olson Nature Preserve
- Read more about Olson Nature Preserve in a 2005 spotlight article featured in Volume 3, Number 4 of Prairie Plains Quarterly
- Download a brochure for Olson Nature Preserve
- Check out photos of Olson Nature Preserve and other Preserves in our Scrapbook
Volunteer at Olson Nature Preserve
To inquire about volunteer opportunities at Olson Nature Preserve, please contact Mitch Osborn at 402-395-2626.
1307 L Street
Aurora, NE 68818