The 2.64 acre virgin tallgrass prairie in central Butler County, Iowa, is an unused portion of historic Butler Center's cemetery. Still preserved as a hayfield in 1961, the tract was purchased with a gift to the the then State College of Iowa Foundation by Joseph B. Clay, a college alumnus, friend, and Cedar Falls native. As one of the University of Northern Iowa's Biological Preserves, the prairie was dedicated in 1976 as a State of Iowa Preserve to further insure preservation.
The preserve is a small remnant of Iowa's once vast expanse of tallgrass prairie which reached its developmental prominence some 7,500 years ago following the retreat of the Wisconsin-aged glaciers. Prior to the warmer climate which promoted prairie, much of the local region was vegetated by tundra and conifer forests. As the glaciers retreated about 12,000 years ago, the deciduous forests as we know them today began to develop in northeast Iowa on the Paleozoic Plateau.
The glacial till soils, forest and prairie vegetation and the moist cool climate collectively formed the nutrient-rich soils that support our successful agriculture. This land-use and the practices of draining and tiling have decreased mesic prairies like Clay Prairie to a very rare and cherished status in Iowa. Since our nation has not set aside a National Park of this heritage type, each individual state must do so on a smaller scale.
For more information about Clay Prairie Preserve, choose one of the following links: