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Cherokee Prairie

Cherokee Prairie


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Region: River Valley
City: Charleston

Description: Cherokee Prairie consists of three tallgrass prairie remnants: Cherokee Prairie Natural Area (566-acres; Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission), H.E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area (257-acres; Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission), and Presson-Oglesby Prairie Preserve (155-acres; The Nature Conservancy). They are small examples of the formerly vast Cherokee Prairie formation that covered much of the western Arkansas River Valley.

Located just north of Charleston, these three natural areas are remnants of the tallgrass prairie that once covered tens of thousands of acres in the Arkansas River Valley. Of these, Cherokee Prairie Natural Area is the largest in the state.

Native grasslands have been shown to support up to 150 species of native plants. Spectacular seasonal wildflower displays peak in late June. The most notable plants in these areas are the impressive tallgrasses, including big bluestem. Prized as a forage plant, this native perennial holds the soil in place with its thick root structure.

More than 20 species of grassland birds can be found migrating or nesting here. Northern Bobwhite, Short-eared Owl, Loggerhead Shrike, Bell’s Vireo, Sedge Wren, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Painted Bunting have all been recorded.

H.E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area was the first place Henslow's Sparrows were found during the nesting season in Arkansas.

Because these areas support species of conservation concern, Cherokee Prairie was designated an Important Bird Area on November 13, 2004.

There are no formal trails on these tracts. Access is limited to foot traffic only. Motorized vehicles, horses, camping, and construction of permanent hunting stands are prohibited in Arkansas Natural Areas.

Directions:
Cherokee Prairie Natural Area: Located approximately 2 miles north of Charleston at the intersection of Ark. 60 and Ark. 217.

H. E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area: From the intersection of Ark. 60 and Ark. 217, just north of Charleston, go east on Ark. 60, 2.2 miles and turn left (north) onto Grand Prairie Road, go 1.5 miles. The parking area is on the left.

Presson-Oglesby Preserve: From the intersection of Ark. 60 and Ark. 217, just north of Charleston, go east on Ark. 60 approximately 0.7 mile and turn left (north) onto County Road 21 (there’s no sign for CR21; look for a large power pole on the left. CR21 is a dirt road). Continue on CR21 down the hill and look for the red preserve sign on the right side of the road. Park along the road.

For more information about the local species, click on a photo below.

Bell's Vireo
© Ron Howard
Common Yellowthroat
© Ron Howard
Dickcissel
© Charles Mills
Field Sparrow
© Charles Mills
Great Egret
© Charles Mills
Henslow's Sparrow
© Robert Herron
Le Conte's Sparrow
© Kelly Chitwood
Painted Bunting
© Charles Mills
Savannah Sparrow
© Kelly Chitwood
Short-eared Owl
© Robert Herron