Nine Mile Prairie

Overview

Nine-Mile Prairie is a 230-acre (97-hectare) relict tallgrass prairie owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation. It is located in on the northwest edge of Lincoln, in Lancaster County. The prairie was so named because it is five miles west and four miles north of the University of Nebraska campus in downtown Lincoln.

8/29/2011 image of Nine-Mile Prairie taken by UNL's remote sensing aircraft
(false color image with 3 spectral bands). Prescribed fires: spring 2008, spring
2009, March 2011, April 2011, May 2011.
August 29, 2011 image of Nine-Mile Prairie taken by UNL's remote sensing aircraft (false color image with 3 spectral bands). Prescribed fires: spring 2008, spring 2009, March 2011, April 2011, May 2011.

Three hundred and ninety-two vascular plant species and over 80 species of birds have been observed on the prairie. Notable species include the federally-threatened prairie white fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) and the rare regal fritillary butterfly (Speyeria idalia). The prairie is also used as a seed source of local genotypes of grasses and wildflowers for use in prairie restoration efforts in the region.

The Nine-Mile Prairie Management Committee, comprised of UNL faculty from several different departments plus resource people from several agencies and organizations, is charged with the stewardship of this biological treasure. Management consists of springtime burning on a 3-year fire-return interval (current burn plans: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012), along with periodic haying and weed/brush control using herbicides. The prairie has not been grazed since 1968.

Location

Approximately 9 miles (14.5 km) northwest of Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska, USA (40 52' 11.5" N, 96 48' 20.3" W).

Directions to Nine-Mile Prairie:

From the East - from the intersection of Interstate 80 and Highway 34 (Exit 401), take Hwy 34 west 4 miles to NW 48th Street. Take NW 48th Street south (left) 0.8 mile to W. Fletcher Avenue. Turn west (right) on W. Fletcher Avenue and proceed 1 mile to parking area.

From the South - From the intersection of W. "O" Street and NW 48th, take NW 48th Street north 4 miles to W. Fletcher Avenue. Turn west (left) on W. Fletcher Avenue and proceed 1 mile to parking area.

The gate to Nine-Mile Prairie is due south of the parking area.

Mission

Nine-Mile Prairie is preserved for teaching, research, and for nature study. It is leased to the University of Nebraska for $1.00 per year with the stipulation that the prairie be kept in its natural state and used for educational purposes.

Institutional Affiliation

Owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation (purchased in 1983) and leased to the University of Nebraska (see History of Land Ownership). The initial purchase of Nine-Mile Prairie was made possible with a generous donation by Mrs. Marguerite Hall. In October 2009, university researchers and staff together with Nine-Mile Prairie friends celebrated the 25th anniversary of Nine-Mile Prairie under University of Nebraska management. Also celebrated was the 100th anniversary of prairie ecologist John Weaver's undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska.

Mrs. Marguerite Hall
Mrs. Marguerite Hall

Research

Nine-Mile Prairie provides many values to the UNL community. As one of the largest intact tracts of tallgrass prairie left in the Midwest, it serves as a nationally important outdoor laboratory for the study of biological processes in grasslands. Nine-Mile is the longest-studied natural area in Nebraska, serving as the site of pioneering research in plant ecology by Professor John E. Weaver, the father of grassland ecology, beginning in the 1920s, and seeing decades of continued use by researchers at UNL and UNO.

Education

In addition to its exceptional research value, Nine-Mile Prairie also is a major educational resource for the University as well as the citizens of Nebraska. Students from a diversity of UNL classes visit the prairie each year for experiences ranging from plant identification to writing poetry. The Prairie is also the setting for tours and special events for the general public aimed at fostering understanding and appreciation of Nebraska’s prairie heritage.

Chronology of Nine-Mile Prairie Documents

A number of research and popular articles, newspaper clippings, legislative bills and other reports, from 1930 to the present, about Nine-Mile Prairie (see Chronology of Documents).

Support Nine-Mile Prairie

Please consider supporting conservation, research and education at Nine-Mile Prairie by contributing to the Nine-Mile Prairie Excellence Fund (Fund #10531) at the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Contacts

Dr. David Wedin (Director, Nine-Mile Prairie)
School of Natural Resources
411 Hardin Hall
University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0974
402-472-9608 (voice)
402-472-2946 (fax)
email: dwedin1@unl.edu

Aerial Photographs

(to enlarge, click on an aerial photograph)

Nine-Mile Prairie Aerial Photograph

Soils Map

  • See Soils Map of Nine-Mile Prairie (source Lancaster County, Nebraska Soil Survey).

Relief Map (to enlarge, click on the map)

Nine-Mile Prairie Relief Map

Climate Data

See historical climate data from the nearest weather station at Lincoln, Nebraska, Municipal Airport.

9 Mile Prairie burn as of May 2012
Click on image to zoom in on a larger image

The map below shows the burn units at Nine-Mile Prairie. The map to the left shows recent burn history. The 5 miles of mowed breaks are available as trails all year. Normally, our prescribed burning occurs between mid-March and mid-May. Please contact Dave Wedin if you questions or concerns.

Nine Mile Prairie Firebreaks
Nine Mile Prairie Permanent Firebreaks - Click on image to enlarge
Year Document Type Document Citation Download Document
 
1930 Research article Steiger, T.L. 1930. Structure of prairie vegetation. Ecology 11:170-217. Document
1934 Research article

Weaver, J.T. and T. J. Fitzpatrick. 1934.  The prairie.  Ecological Monographs 4:112-295.

Document
1936 Research article

Whelan, D.B. 1936.  Some mammals of an Eastern Nebraska prairie.  Trans. Kansas Acad. Science 39:365-366.

Document
1936 Research article

Whelan, D.B. 1936.  Coleoptera of an original prairie area in Eastern Nebraska.  Journal of the Kansas Entomological Soc. 9:111-115.

Document
1938 Research article

Whelan, D.B. 1938.  Orthoptera of an Eastern Nebraska prairie.  Journal of the Kansas Entomological Soc. 11:3-6.

Document
1939 Research article Robertson, J.H. 1939.  A quantitative study of true-prairie vegetation after three years of extreme drought.  Ecological Monographs 9:432-492. Document
1940 Research article Whelan, D.B. 1940. Birds of a surviving area of original prairie land in eastern Nebraska.  Nebraska Bird Review 8:50-55. Document
1954 Research article Fichter, E. 1954. An ecological study of invertebrates of grassland and deciduous shrub savanna in eastern Nebraska.  American Midland Naturalist 51:321-439. Document
1979 NU Report Assessment of 9MP and potential for its protection by A.T. Harrison. Document
1981 Legislative Act Nebraska Legislative Act LB 58. Former Governor Robert B. Crosby, UNL biologist A.T. Harrison, and Wachiska Audubon member E. Rousek crafted this bill encouraging the Lincoln Airport Authority to preserve Nine-Mile Prairie. Document
Document
1982 News clippings News stories on the protection of 9MP. Document
1983 Research article Bomberger, Mary L., Shelly L. Sheilds, A. Tyrone Harrison and Kathleen H. Keeler. 1983. Comparison of old field succesion on a tallgrass prairie and a Nebraska Sandhills prairie. The Prairie Naturalist. 15:1 pp. 9-15. Document
1983 Popular article Wachiska Audobon’s Ernie Rousek recounts the struggles to protect Nine Mine Prairie from the late 1970’s until its purchase by UNL in 1983. Document
1984 News clipping Marguerite Hall at the dedication of NMP.  Mrs. Hall generously donated half the purchase price to the University of Nebraska Foundation.  A state historic marker honors Mrs. Hall and her late husband Neil W. Hall.  A second historic marker recognizes the early prairie research done of Dr. J.E. Weaver, and the efforts of E. Rousek and A.T. Harrison to protect 9MP (see Nebraska Historical Marker Texts). Document
1985 Popular article Adams, J.L. 1984.  A Prairie Classroom.  Nebraskaland Magazine Document
1987 Research article Kaul, R.B. and S. B. Rolfsmeier. 1987. The characteristics and phytogeographic affinities of the flora of Nine-Mile Prairie, a western tallgrass prairie in Nebraska. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences XV:23-25. Document
1990 SCS report Detailed descriptions of two Soil Conservation Service (SCS) soil profiles at 9MP.  Also, the soil survey map of 9MP  (see entire soil survey). Document
1992 Research article Schmidt, J.M. and A. E. Antlfinger. 1992. The level of agamospermy in a Nebraska population of Spiranthes Cernua (Orchidaceae). American Journal of Botany 79:501-507. Document
1992 Research article Masters, R.A., K.P. Vogel, and R.B. Mitchell. 1992.  Response of Central Plains tallgrass prairies to fire, fertilizer, and atrazine. Journal of Range Management 45:291-295. Document
1996 Research article Mitchell, R.B., R.A. Masters, S.S. Waller, K.J. Moore, and L.J. Young. 1996. Tallgrass prairie vegetation response to spring burning dates, fertilizer, and atrazine. Journal of Range Management 49:131-136. Document
1998 Literary essay Robert King. 1998.  Poets on the Prairie. Weber Studies 16.1. Document
2000 Research article Huebschman, J.J. and T. B. Bragg. 2000.  Response of regal fritillary (Speyeria idalia) to spring burning in an eastern Nebraska tallgrass prairie, USA. Natural Areas Journal 20:386-388. Document
2001 Postage stamp Nine-Mile Prairie postage stamp. Release event for the 9MP postage stamp with Michael Forsberg’s photo. Document
2005 Lancaster County Lancaster County Open Space Plan. Summary document from Lincoln/Lancaster county 2025 plan featuring 9MP. Document
2007 Literary essay Lisa Knopp, Nine-Mile Prairie, Michigan Quarterly Review, Summer 2007, Pages 443 - 459 Document
2008 LES plan Location of LES powerline construction. Construction began in 2007 and will finish in summer 2008. Document
2009 News article Nine-Mile Prairie celebrates 25th year in UNL hands. News article from the Lincoln Journal Star. Document
2009 Popular article A brief history of John Weaver and Nine-Mile Prairie presented by David Wedin at the 25th anniversary celebration in October 2009 Document
2012 News Article Amateur photographer from Lincoln takes home international award. Lincoln Journal-Star. July 20, 2012 Document

Land Ownership at Nine-Mile Prairie

  • 1871 -1906 west half owned by Ira Davenport family
  • 1906 -1914 west half various owners
  • 1914 -1953 west half of 9MP owned by Tilman Flader family
  • 1880 - 1884 east half owned by Burlington Missouri River RR company
  • 1884 -1934 east half various owners
  • 1934 –1953 east half owned by E. Frank Schramm family
  • 1953 -1978 owned by US government
  • 1978 -1983 owned by Airport Authority
  • 1979 -1982 leased by E. Rousek on behalf of the Wachiska chapter of the Audubon Society
  • 1983 – present owned by University of Nebraska Foundation
Blue Angles over Nine Mile Prairie
Dave Wedin directs the Navy's Blue Angels over the Nine Mile Prairie during the "Guardians of Freedom" Air Show at nearby Lincoln Airport on September 10, 2011. Photo by Rob Branting.