Southern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Forest: Kisatchie National Forest
District: Winn Ranger District
Description: The Keiffer Prairies on the Winn Ranger District in central Louisiana are some of the best sites for wildflower viewing on the Kisatchie National Forest. The Keiffer Prairie complex is made up of numerous, small prairie openings that are surrounded by mixed pine and hardwood forests. The calcareous clay soils in these openings tend to become extremely dry during the summer, so pines and large hardwoods do not thrive in them. These sunny openings support a wide variety of grasses and herbs, many of which are found only in prairies.
Wildflowers bloom on the Keiffer Prairies from early March through December, but are especially colorful and abundant in the spring and fall. Although small, these prairie openings support a wide variety of species. The Keiffer Prairies offer some of the most beautiful and unique sites for wildflower viewing in Louisiana.
Viewing Information: From March to May, forbs dominate the prairies. Among the many wildflowers that can be seen in spring are pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), prairie bluet (Houstonia purpurea var. calycosa), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.), wild verbena (Glandularia canadensis), prairie parsley (Polytaenia nuttallii), winecup (Callirhoe papaver), downy phlox (Phlox pilosa), and black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).
In fall, from late September to November, both grasses and forbs are abundant. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) are the most common grasses. Many of the fall herbs are composites and include goldenrods (Solidago spp.), flat-topped goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum), Missouri ironweed (Vernonia missurica), blazing stars (Liatris spp.), tall sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), asters (Symphyotrichum spp. and Eurybia spp.), and western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya).
Kieffer Prairies represents one of the last examples of the more extensive prairies that dotted the landscape in Louisiana historically. Over 99.9 percent of the prairies are gone that once occurred in the state. Some of the remaining prairies are currently threatened by invasive species, woody plant invasion, and a lack of fire. Active management, including the use of prescribed fire, is critical to maintaining healthy prairies. Kieffer Prairies is an important part of our natural heritage that we are managing so that future generations may also have the opportunity to view this very rare ecosystem.
Safety First: Visitors should be aware that the Keiffer Prairies can become very hot, almost unbearably so during the summer. With their grassy, open areas, the prairies also harbor numerous biting insects including mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers. To avoid overheating and sunburn, hats should be worn, sunscreen applied, and visitors should bring plenty of water. To protect themselves from insect bites visitors should wear shoes rather than sandals, wear long pants, and apply insect repellant. Sturdy footwear is also recommended. Although prairies have relatively flat topography, the ground can be rough in spots when walking.
Visitors should also be aware that the Keiffer Prairies are actively managed. To restore and maintain prairie openings, the Forest Service periodically prescribe burns them and clears them of brush. Visitors should check with the Winn Ranger District office for current conditions.
Directions: Although most of the Keiffer Prairie openings are not easy to find because they are surrounded by dense woodland, several occur along roads or trails and are relatively accessible. Coldwater Road Prairie and one of the Carpenter Road Prairies straddle well-developed roads. Gum Springs Horse Trail can be used to access a number of other prairies including more of the Carpenter Road Prairies, the Little Rock Creek and Long Prairies, and the Milam Branch Prairies.
Directions to specific prairies openings are best obtained from the Winn Ranger District office west of Winnfield on US Hwy 84. Office hours are 7:30 am to 4:00 pm M-F except on holidays. The address and phone number is as follows:
Winn Ranger District 9671 U.S. Hwy 84 West Winnfield, LA 71483 (318) 628-4664
The best persons to contact for directions to the prairies are Shannan Sharp at (318) 765-3554 at the Catahoula District office or Lynn Jackson at the Winn Ranger District above.
Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Kisatchie National Forest, Winn Ranger District.
Closest Town: Winnfield, Louisiana.