Let’s Take a Ride (REGPCEC)
This interpretive area tour will allow participants to experience the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Wildlife Management Area firsthand. It allows them to see, hear, smell and feel the prairie. While on the tour, participants will stop and discuss points of interest.
K - 12
Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center, Columbus
Education Program Coordinator, 800-983-4219
45 minutes - 1 hour
Suggested Number of Participants:
10 - 30
- Encourage participants to get outdoors.
- Learn the agencies that are protecting the Blackland
ecosystem and how they are restoring it.
- Discover past and present flora and fauna of the Grandview prairie.
- Discuss the historical significance of land use, fire and soil content and their effect on present-day management practices.
Savanna (also savannah)
*See glossary for definations
- AAS field notes related to Grandview prairie
- Archeogeophysics and archaeology at a Caddo mound center in southwest Arkansas: The Tom Jones site (3HE40) at Grandview Ranch
- Blackland ecosystem of Arkansas poster
- Fossil guide(s) or reference book(s) – example: “Upper Cretaceous Formations of Southwestern Arkansas”
- “Handbook of North American Indians,” Volume 14, Southwest
- Interpretive signs found along the wildlife management area roads
- Let’s Take a Ride trunk
- Sample artifacts
- Sample fossils
- Site species lists
- “Tall Grass Prairie Wildflowers”
Rick Evans Grandview Prairie is 4,885 acres of Blackland prairie. It was bought in May 1997 and was the first major land acquisition using money provided by Amendment 75. This amendment designates 1/8th of one percent of the state's general sales tax for Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (45 percent), Arkansas State Parks (45 percent), Arkansas Heritage Commission (nine percent) and Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission (one percent). It is located in rural Hempstead County in southwest Arkansas off Highway 73 near Columbus, Arkansas.
Native Americans inhabited this area long before it was called Grandview. Documented findings show Caddo lived on the site. The property was later called the Grandview Plantation and had a reputation for producing valuable crops and livestock. Recently, the area was a cattle farm and offered private hunting and fishing. With cattle farming, non-native vegetation and over-grazing were common. The animals hunted and fished were white-tailed deer, trophy bass and pen-reared native and non-native upland game birds. Currently, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) owns Grandview Prairie and is operating a conservation education center and wildlife management area.
When it was bought, Rick Evans Grandview Prairie had an excellent white-tailed deer herd, a small flock of eastern wild turkeys, a remnant bobwhite quail population and other game species. Many game and non-game animals make their home here including small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.
Rick Evans Grandview Prairie represents the most significant example of Blackland prairie for management and restoration in Arkansas. It is comprised of open prairie, woodlands, savanna and non-native grasslands. The diverse habitat has equally diverse wildlife such as songbirds, deer, butterflies, small mammals and reptiles year-round.
Archeological finds offer a glimpse into the Caddo civilization and early settlers on the prairie. Fossil remains from the cretaceous period are on the site, including several species of exogyra, short- and long-necked plesiosaur, mosasaur and shark. Some fossils of prehistoric marine life are thought to be 73 million years old.
- Go over safety and conduct requirements for the group. Answer any questions and have them take a seat on the wagon.
- After participants have loaded, share general information about the AGFC and the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Wildlife Management Area. It might be helpful to show a map of the area. Include the following:
- Rick Evans Grandview Prairie is located near Columbus in rural Hempstead County of southwest Arkansas.
- The 4,885 acres was bought in May 1997 using money provided by Amendment 75. It was the first major land acquisition from these funds, fueled by taxpayers’ desire for land acquisition and improvement, conservation education and protection and restoration of habitat.
- The focus of the conservation education center is to promote stewardship and ensure the future of Arkansas’ natural resources through education and recreation for youth.
- The focus of the wildlife management division is prairie restoration.
- Tell them they will be spending about an hour and a half on the tour. Several sites will highlight interesting facts about the Blackland prairie, Columbus and its surrounding area. Instructors should spend about 5 - 10 minutes at each site, depending on the participants’ age and interest. The signs can be read verbatim or information shared conversationally.
- Some of the signs have a quote which is open for discussion. These quotes can launch a writing exercise for middle and high schoolers, if the teacher has them bring writing materials.
- Share the following information while at the sites:
- The Living Prairie
- Start with a broad discussion of prairies and end with a discussion of the prairie in view. The Blacklands covered about 12 million acres in the United States with 325,000 acres in Arkansas. It is one of the more imperiled ecosystems in the Southeast. The Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Wildlife Management Area is the largest Blackland conservation site in the United States.
- From the sign… “The hundreds of grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees provide homes and food for many species of animals native to Arkansas.
- If time allows, quietly look over the area and count how many different plants and animals they see or hear.”
- Point out things you can identify and share those with the group: wildflowers, grasses, sounds, wildlife. Remember that tall grasses such as indian grass and little bluestem dominate the Blackland landscape. Other grasses include gama grass, switch grass and big bluestem.
- From the sign…“What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered.”--Aldo Leopold
- Ancient Oceans
- Speculate why we would have an ancient oceans sign in the middle of a prairie.
- Discuss the western interior seaway and its effect on prairie development. Blackland communities are found on limestone formations deposited by the cretaceous sea that once covered this area.
- Talk about the color and consistency of the soil. From the sign… “Black clay soil gives the Blackland prairie its name. This sticky soil or “gumbo” reveals life from ages past as it erodes and exposes fossils.”
- This area is great for exploration. If time permits, look for evidence that prehistoric marine life populated the area once or show sample fossils and discuss each.
- Emphasize the importance of leaving things as they find them.
- Mention that fossils are exhibited in the main office.
- From the sign…“As I looked at it, I felt the excitement that comes to one who glimpses treasures in the earth.”--Edwin H. Colbert
- Water World
- Discuss lake No. 1:
- When it was built (1987) and why (erosion control of the Ozan watershed)
- Seventy-seven acres stocked with channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill and redear
- Open 24 hours a day for fishing with a covered fishing pier, small boat dock and boat ramp for public use
- Ask participants to find other ways the lake could be used. Examples would be habitat for more than just fish, water source for terrestrial species and “fringe benefits” for the great blue heron.
- Point out the animals illustrated on the sign and share how they depend on the water and the land around it. If time allows, encourage them to explore and look for signs of wildlife.
- From the sign…“Commonly we stride through the out of doors too swiftly to see more than the most obvious and prominent things.”--Edwin Way Teale
- Aquatic Forensics
- Discuss lake No. 2:
- When it was built and why
- Thirty-five acres stocked with channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill and redear
- Open 24 hours a day for fishing with a boat ramp, and small dock
- Finding out if a body of water is healthy doesn’t required expensive equipment.
- A dip net and identification guide can help anyone be a water quality detective.
- At this site, a water sample can be taken with a dip net and the organisms found can determine the health of the water.
- A guide like the one on the sign can identify pollution-sensitive, somewhat sensitive and pollution-tolerant organisms in the water.
- A prevalence of sensitive and somewhat sensitive organisms indicates good water quality because they would not survive otherwise.
- A prevalence of pollution-tolerant organisms, along with an absence of sensitive and somewhat sensitive species, would indicate poor water quality because the presence of pollution does not adversely affect the tolerant organisms.
- The samples seen on the sign show organisms found in two different lakes. Which is the healthier?
- Have participants look at the sign and determine the species that belong in each sensitivity group. This will help determine the healthier lake. While it may seem that lake B has the best water because there are more organisms, it may not be. The diversity of species and pollution sensitivity level better gauge the health of the water. Lake A has a more diverse, pollution-sensitive group and is healthier. This procedure is based on the benthic cycle.
- Hands on Lands
- The sign describes how this area has been used in the past and its current use.
- Go through each “hand”.
- Caddo: Hundreds of years ago, a Caddo Indian village was here, and the temple site can be seen nearby. It is thought that man arrived here 12,000 years ago, described as Paleo – nomadic hunters following big herds across North America. Archaic Indians evolved 6,000 years ago when the climate changed, and they became hunters and gathers within a 100-mile radius. Further information on the Caddo is available.
- Plantation: In the early 1900s, the view here would show part of the new Grandview Plantation.
- Farming: During the twentieth century, cattle ranching introduced fescue and other non-native plants to the prairie.
- AGFC: Today, the area is the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center and Wildlife Management Area. It’s a place to discover the Blackland prairie and experience its quality fish, wildlife and natural beauty.
- If time permits, visit the sinkhole and discuss the survey/society training program held at Grandview Prairie.
- A Special Place
- Caddo Indians inhabited this region from approximately 800 A.D. until European settlers arrived.
- The mound of earth is part of an extensive, well-preserved Caddo mound-group consisting of a temple mound and at least five small outlying mounds. (Talk in terms of temple, house and burial sites.) Numerous archeological sites on the Grandview Prairie remain undisturbed and are in pristine condition. One of the more important prehistoric sites on the property is the Tom Jones site.
- In 2001, 2002 and 2003, excavations were carried out by the Arkansas Archeological Survey and members of the Arkansas Archeological Society under the direction of Dr. Frank.
- From the sign…”Like radar, magnetic susceptibility, gradiometry, electrical resistance and electromagnetic conductivity all help to show what’s beneath the earth without digging. This is called remote sensing. The range of technologies employed, together with the simultaneous excavations that allowed the Survey to “ground truth” the computer-generated imagery, made this project the first full-scale test of geophysical remote sensing for archaeological research in Arkansas, and among the first in the southeast region.”
- Allow the participants to look around the mound and reflect on what they see.
- Savanna (also Savannah)
- A savanna is neither a forest nor a prairie but a combination of scattered trees and well-developed ground cover. The trees in a savanna are spread apart with their crowns rarely touching. The grasses, wildflowers and shrubs of a prairie are also in a savanna.
- Fire is a key to savanna survival. If it isn’t burned, young oaks will survive and eventually become forest.Burning kills oak seedlings, but fire resistant bark protects mature oaks and preserves the savanna.
- After more than a century of fire suppression, savanna plant and wildlife species are in danger.Many rare and declining grassland bird species inhabit Arkansas’ imperiled prairies. Discuss the birds illustrated on the interpretive sign.
- Have the participants look at the sign and see if they recognize the birds. If time permits, do some birding and discuss birding tips.
- Hot on the Trail to Prairie
- Fire maintains the health and species diversity of Blackland ecological communities. Historically fire had been suppressed from Grandview Prairie. Cedars took over and woods invaded. As a result, many species disappeared.
- Prescribed burns are opening up woods, removing thickets and restoring native plants to the prairies, which will restore diversity to the prairie as well.
- The fire’s timing and intensity are important in prescribed burning. Spring burns may reduce non-native pasture grasses and woody plants but also can reduce flowering of some native plants. Summer burns hit woody plants hardest, while fall burns may stimulate many wildflowers but reduce red cedar and pine trees. During restoration, the recipe may change to maintain the recovered native plant and animal diversity.
- Conclude with a brief discussion about the misconceptions of wildfires due to a “Smokey the Bear” mentality.
- How many acres are included in Rick Evans Grandview Prairie?
- Name five unique features of Grandview.
- What is the primary purpose of Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center?
Archeology – history of man and his culture based on excavations of evidence left behind
Biodiversity – the variety of life and its processes which maintain a healthy ecosystem
Caddo – Native Americans that inhabited part of present-day northwest Louisiana, east Texas, southwest Arkansas and southeast Oklahoma
Ecosystem – plants and animals interacting with each other and their physical environment
Fauna – animals characteristic of a region, period or special environment
Flora – plant life; plants characteristic of a region, period or special environment
Food chain – feeding order in an ecological community that passes food energy from one organism to another as each consumes a lower member and in turn is preyed upon by a higher member
Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs
Paleontology – study of fossils (remains of ancient plants and animals)
Prairie – primarily a grassland habitat with few trees
Savanna (savannah) – communities with scattered trees and well-developed ground cover of grasses and wildflowers