Pawnee Prairie Natural Area is in northern Harrison County.
Pawnee Prairie was named for a Native American tribe that occupied the area. It is also the name of a nearby town.
This area represents a relict island of the once vast, rolling prairie of Northwest Missouri. Plants and animals unique to a tallgrass prairie ecosystem survive on portions of the area that have never been plowed. The remainder of the area is in various stages of prairie restoration. The area is part of the larger Grand River Grasslands Conservation Opportunity Area. The wide variety of grassland wildlife, especially birds, found here as well as tracts of unplowed prairie, indicate this is the best area in northern Missouri to restore a functioning tallgrass prairie ecosystem on a landscape scale.
The Missouri Department of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and interested private landowners are working cooperatively to restore prairie in this landscape.
Periodic prescribed burning is used to preserve and maintain the prairie; taking the place of the periodic wildfires that once maintained the landscape. Fire invigorates the prairie, stifles growth of undesirable species, and makes the area more attractive to grassland wildlife.
Pawnee Prairie Natural Area is especially notable for a variety of grassland birds from late May until early July, such as bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, upland sandpipers, and Bell's vireos. It has an abundance of sedge wrens in late July/August. The part of the prairie with the greatest variety of plants is about one-half mile from the parking lot on a northeast slope on both sides of the field road through the area.