Prairie Heritage Center

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4931 Yellow Avenue
Peterson, Iowa 51047   
Phone: 712-295-7200
Fax: 712-295-7222
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Prairie Heritage Center logoHours

O'Brien County Conservation Board Hours:
Monday-Friday - 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.

Prairie Heritage Center Hours:
Wednesday-Friday - 9 A.M. to 4 P.M.
Saturday & Sunday - 1 P.M. to 4 P.M.

O'Brien County 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.

Why a Nature Center?

It is the desire of the O'Brien Conservation Board to provide the best possible education and preservation with regard to the nature and environment so unique to this area.
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.

Where is it Located?

The Prairie Heritage Center is located in Northwest Quarter of Section 26 in Waterman Township, within two miles of the junction of Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay and O'Brien counties . The building site covers approximately 38 acres for the building, displays and activities, plus 235 acres of adjacent prairie and preserved public lands. It also serves as a staging point for various excursions in the surrounding public areas.

What Can You Learn?

The Prairie Heritage Center provides classrooms, exhibit areas, demonstration plots and interpretive trails to aid in increasing the public's understanding of the prairie ecosystem and history of the area.  Regular, year-round environmental education programs for school groups, 4-H groups, scout groups and the general public are presented at the center by staff naturalists and guest speakers.  Rooms for public meetings are available at the center.  The center also serves to collect and disseminate information relating the environmental issues in the region.

Drawing of Inkpaduta

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.


Photos of Bonnie and ClydeIn 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.


Photo of a recreation of a Prairie WagonRegular, year-round environmental education programs for school groups, 4-H groups, scout groups and the general public are presented at the center by staff naturalists and guest speakers.

Visit the following websites for news and a list of events happening in and around O'Brien County:
Prairie Heritage Center
O'Brien County via
O'Brien County Calendar of Events

Also on Facebook:
O'Brien County Conservation Board/Prairie Heritage Center

Visit the Prairie Heritage Center Website or contact O'Brien County Conservation Board.