Marie Ratzlaff Prairie Preserve

As a high-quality Hamilton County tallgrass prairie remnant, the Marie Ratzlaff Prairie Preserve has been the site of many stewardship and restoration activities including tree cutting, sumac attack, prairie planting and burning, and seed harvesting. It has served as an outdoor classroom for local schools and is a frequent destination for Summer Orientation About Rivers (SOAR), a nature day camp for elementary students.

History

Prairie Plains received the Marie Ratzlaff Prairie Preserve in 1989 as a gift from members Neal and Izen Ratzlaff. Neal grew up in the nearby community of Henderson, Nebraska. Purchased by the Ratzlaffs at an auction in 1988, the land was previously owned by Marie Ratzlaff. Coincidentally Neal's mother shares the same name! The prairie is named in honor of both women.

Unique Features

Ratzlaff Prairie is a rare natural and historic landmark because it has never been broken for cropland production and exists on one of the best cropland soils in the world. It contains many typical tallgrass prairie species, including such things as big bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, leadplant, prairie clover and wild rose, to name but a few of nearly 100 species. Wildlife observed at Ratzlaff includes grasshopper sparrows, meadowlarks, dickcissels, badgers, coyotes, foxes, and many smaller mammals.

Stewardship

Burning, grazing, prairie restoration planting and woodland cutting have always been a part of the long-term management plan for this preserve. Beginning in 1997, tree and sumac cutting in the draw was combined with burning to slow woodland expansion into the prairie. In 2001, 10.9 acres of cropland at the north end of the preserve was donated by the Ratzlaffs and hand seeded with a high-diversity prairie seed mix. With completion of a perimeter fence and stock well in 2004, occasional grazing also takes place. Grazing helps sustain the native plant diversity and discourage unwanted plants such as smooth bromegrass and bluegrass.

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Location

Located 5.5 miles south of Interstate 80 Exit 338 in Hamilton County, Nebraska.

GPS Coordinates

Latitude/Longitude: 40.738 -97.882

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