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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Arb Notes: Wonders of McKnight Prairie

<b. Hopefully you’ve explored it (at least a little bit) by now. Perhaps you go there to run, to cross country ski (if it ever gets cold enough), to stargaze, to complete work for a biology lab, to spot wildlife, or to clear your head after a long ninth week full of looming due-dates. In general, the Arb has a comfortable place within the lives of most of the student body.

However, the Arb is not the only piece of natural land Carleton owns. McKnight Prairie is a 33.5 acre prairie fragment purchased by the college in 1968, one of the few prairie remnants after most of southern Minnesota went into agriculture. Walking into McKnight is like taking a trip back in time, showing us how current farmland looked before corn and soybeans took control. McKnight is used primarily for research and education. Biology classes at Carleton often take advantage of the site to investigate the fascinating ecology of an area untouched by plow or bulldozer. Also, McKnight has played an important role in restoring the Arb’s prairie land, acting as a seed source to repopulate the Arb with native plants. Though McKnight isn’t nearly as vast as the Arb, it boasts an enormous amount of diversity in plant and animal species, soil types, and topography. 

How do you get to McKnight Prairie? McKnight is about seven miles from campus, so it makes a better destination on a bikeride rather than a leisurely afternoon stroll. If you take Highway 19 past the Arb, take a left on Boyd Avenue, and take a right on 310th Street, you’ll find it. However, because this prairie is a fragile and precious environment, visitors should try to disturb the land as little possible, taking care not to remove any plant or animal material.

Small flags scattered around the prairie often mark important plants used in research or seed restoration, so they should stay where they are. McKnight is a wonderful place to visit to appreciate a landscape important to understanding Minnesota’s native ecology, and when treated with respect, visitors ensure that it will remain vital and available to educate people about prairies in the future.

-Rae Wood ’12, for the Cole Student Naturalists

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