Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie Learning Center, Prairie City

4.4
#4 of 22 in Wildlife in Iowa
Must see · Wildlife Area · Nature / Park
The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is a federal national wildlife refuge located in Jasper County, Iowa, United States. The refuge, formerly known as Walnut Creek, is named after Congressman Neal Edward Smith, who championed its creation. It seeks to restore the tallgrass prairie and oak savanna ecosystems that once covered most of Iowa. It has a herd of approximately 75 buffalo (bison) and 25 elk.
The core of the Neal Smith refuge was a 3600acre block of land originally acquired by Iowa Power and Light (now part of MidAmerican Energy) for a nuclear power plant. The Fish and Wildlife Service was able to acquire this land in 1990. Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acquired much more of the allocated 8654acre.
Although the Neal Smith refuge includes a patchwork of small and seriously degraded native prairies, most of the refuge is the result of prairie restoration efforts. The restoration work has been done with local ecotype seed harvested from nearby native prairie remnants or from other restoration efforts that have used acceptable local ecotype seed.
Located near Prairie City, Iowa, the Prairie Learning Center features exhibits and movies about the tallgrass prairie, sedge meadow and oak savanna ecosystems of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. The Center offers environmental education programs for school groups, scout groups and more. The Friends of the Prairie Learning Center operate the book store.
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Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie Learning Center reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
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  • This facility is a fabulous visit during any season. My family enjoys the bison and other wildlife, the changing colors of the native prairie, and the unique look at what this part of the country...  more »
  • Definitely worth the trip in mid-January. Plenty of opportunity to see Bison and Elk. Gorgeous against the winter scenes. Roads were clear inside the reserve even though snow twice in past few days.....  more »

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