Introducing the Platte River Sandhill Prairie

This week, one of our prairies gets a new name, thanks to some generous donors, including the J.A. Woollam Foundation, the Claire Hubbard Foundation, the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Foundation, and many others.  The new name, more descriptive than celebratory, is simply this: The Platte River Sandhill Prairie.

The site is actually the combination of a 60 remnant (unplowed) prairie and 110 acres of adjacent cropfield that we seeded with 162 species of prairie plants in 2002.  The Platte River Sandhill Prairie sits on a range of sandy hills along the south edge of the Platte River Valley.  Most of the historic prairie in those hills has been converted into center pivot-irrigated cropland now, so our 170 acres of floristically-diverse grassland is especially valuable.

Because of this year’s drought, the prairie is not wearing its most showy colors right now.  Most of the grasses have been dormant since July, and very few fall wildflowers are blooming.  However, as with all prairies, what you see today is not what you’ll see tomorrow, nor what was there yesterday or last year.  As a celebration of the Platte River Sandhill Prairie, its beauty and diversity, and the generous donors who continue to support our conservation work, I’ve put together a series of photographs that show this prairie in all its glory.  Long-time readers of this blog will recognize most, if not all, of these photos from previous posts, but might not have realized that they were all from the same prairie.

Click on any of the below photos to see it larger, and then use the arrows to scroll through the rest of the photos.  I apologize for the quality of a few of them – some are poor quality scans of slides, but were useful for showing different stages of growth in the prairie.

Thank you to everyone who supports the work of The Nature Conservancy along the Central Platte River in Nebraska.  Please don’t be strangers – we’d love to have you come hike our trails and see the results of your support firsthand.



About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
This entry was posted in General, Prairie Animals, Prairie Insects, Prairie Management, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography, Prairie Plants, Prairie Restoration/Reconstruction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Introducing the Platte River Sandhill Prairie

  1. Ted says:

    Why do you need “generous donors” to be able to give this property a new name?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Ted, it’s a great question. Sometimes we name a property after a donor, but in this case the primary donor in this particular fundraising campaign didn’t want their name on the property but chose instead to pick a name that fit the site. We were happy to oblige.

      • James McGee says:

        My commendation to the donor/s that allowed you to pick a name appropriate for the site. I find it very narcistic and trite when someone writes a big check and slaps their name on something. There is a local restoration that volunteers have been working on for a quarter of a centry. The local government put the name of a politician on it. I think this was a real insult to the people who selflessly dedicated the better part of their lives to this endeavor.


  2. Chris, this is my favorite blog that I follow. You are a succinct writer, and a good photographer. I really enjoy this blog!

  3. Brent Lathrop says:

    So Chris where is the picture of the Prairie Chicken/Grouse remnants that are in the area?

    Brent Lathrop

  4. The slide show isn’t working right for me, but the thumbnails are nice. Named formally or not, it’s good to have some support to maintain and manage htis beautiful site!

  5. melmannphoto says:

    Good name – fits the area nicely.

    BTW, I was photographing sumac near Omaha this week (brilliant red leaves, but aren’t lasting long) and read the fruit can be ground up and used as a spice. Is the species we have around here actually edible? Or is that just in the Middle East?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Mel, I don’t know a lot about it, but I’ve heard sumac “berries” can be used to make lemonade, and they certainly have a lemony taste… Please don’t take my word for it without getting better confirmation though!

      • James C. Trager says:

        Smooth sumac Rhus glabra fruits are tart and can be used to make “lemonade”. The fruits of other species have a pungent fragrance and less tart quality that make them more suited as a savory seasoning. I’ve never tasted the Middle Eastern species to know how it compares.


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