Prairie used to dominate the landscape of Missouri, at one time covering over one third of the state. Now, due to the rise of urban civilizations and the destruction of natural habitat, less than one percent of the original prairie remains, with the majority of that one percent in Prairie State Park. There are around 150 birds, 25 mammals, 12 amphibians and 25 reptiles that only live in prairie habitat, which makes the conservation of prairies so important. Prairie State Park itself is home to over to 25 endangered animal and plant species. To maintain the landscape and make the soil more nutritious, fires are periodically introduced. During spring, the landscape is covered in Indian paintbrush (Castilleja), and the mating ritual of the prairie chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) can be seen, although rarely. During the summer the growth of the grass takes off, and some of them can reach around eight feet tall (“Prairie State Park”).

Prairie State Park is a wide open landscape home to 100 bison and 25 elk that roam the vast park. The bison congregate in two or three herds, roaming the park together in larger groups. The elk also tend to stay together. The park unsurprisingly is littered with bison chips (bison excrement), which can serve as good fuel for a fire when dried out. Aside from the bison and elk, the park is also home to many smaller animals, such as crawfish (Astacoidea). The crawfish that live in the park dig holes in the mud and live underground where the water is. They will venture outside of their holes when it rains and is muddy, which makes digging a different hole easier. The campsite at Prairie State Park is near a small river and does not have any running water, although potable water is available outside of the shop building (“Prairie State Park”).

The vast prairie landscapes were both romantic and inspiring as they flooded my mind with thoughts of the early American frontier. However, I could see the tops of silos and some farms in the distance which broke the horizon. As much as my eyes wanted to believe that this untamed prairie stretched on forever, my mind knew that just over the next hill was civilization. As beautiful as Prairie State Park was, I wish it could have extended forever, like it once did.

Entry by John Evan Lee

Bison used to live all over the United States, but by the late 1800s they were almost completely wiped out by hunters. They provided basically everything for the Native Americans. They used bison meat for food and used bison chips as fuel for their fires. Bison bladders were effective at storing and transporting water. Native Americans used the sinew, or muscle attachments, for bows and threads because they are tough, strong, and fairly easy to manipulate. They used the bison’s hairs for various purposes including headdresses, ropes, and pillows. The hide had many purposes as well, including robes, dolls, bedding, pouches, and tepee covers in some regions. Although, in this particular region, the Native Americans were not nomadic, so they lived in small cabins, not tepees, and rarely moved, contrary to popular belief. Horn caps are made of condensed proteins called keratin. Also found in human hair and fingernails, they can easily be molded when heated. These horn caps were typically heated and formed into cups, spoons, bowls, etc. Bones were used for a variety of purposes such as rakes, knives, clubs, shovels, spear handles, and toys. Tails were used as fly swatters and rattles, and hooves were often made into glue. The Native Americans used the bison for almost all of their needs.

Entry by Melanie Cohen


For more information about Prairie State Park, please visit their website