Prairie Heritage Center

Historic Visits at Prairie Heritage Center

The Prairie Heritage Center is located on a bluff that is adjacent to the Hannibal Waterman Prairie Preserve.  The building looks out over the historic hills and valleys of the area as well as the Little Sioux River Valley.

The Waterman area offers some of the most breath-taking views of nature in the area. Formed during the last ice age by the movement of glaciers, the geographic valley we are nestled near a geographical wonder known as a hanging valley. These glaciers carved the beautiful bluffs, valleys, rivers and lakes we see today. They also deposited some of the richest soil, known as till, in the world.In addition to the landscape, the Waterman Area offers a wide variety of flora and fauna, indigenous to the area for thousands of years. Much of the native prairie grasses, wildflowers and tree growth look the same today as they would have when the first native peoples inhabited this land. There are even plots of land in the vicinity that remain virgin prairie, untilled by human hands or machinery.

In the mid-1940's Dr. Ada Hayden of Iowa State University conducted a statewide inventory of prairie remnants. Her #1 site for preservation is the Waterman area. It should be noted that according to a report for the Nature Conservancy, this site is one of the few locations for the Prairie Bush Clover, a rare species listed with the federal government. The Conservancy has also identified this area as "as site of regional significance in our Northern Tallgrass Ecoregional Plan".

The area is so noteworthy in beauty, it is now part of the State of Iowa's Scenic By-Way program.

Just a few things you may learn about while visiting the Prairie Heritage Center:
- Inkpaduta and his fearsome band of followers used the waterways of the Waterman Area for transportation.  In 1857 they stopped at the Waterman cabin and the Kirchner cabin near Peterson, terrorizing and stealing from the settlers before continuing on to Okoboji where the famous massacre took place.  This was the last Indian uprising in the area. Inkpaduta's canoe trail can be visited and canoed today.
- In July of 1933 the Barrow gang, a roving band of bank robbing outlaws hid out in the Waterman Area after robbing an Everly bank.  Their leaders, the infamous Bonnie & Clyde Barrow spoke with a local resident, ate pheasant and hid from their pursuers.

There's so much more to learn about at the Prairie Heritage Center!