No Lines At Oz’s Turkey Foot Prairie

The key turned but nothing happened.

My car’s ignition cylinder failed…again.

Unfazed, my son suggested we take the minivan. We were not going to be denied our Saturday afternoon adventure.

My mind dwelled on the stupid car that wouldn’t start and how to get it to the shop on Monday. We parked at the entrance to the Turkey Foot Prairie on the western edge of Warrensburg as large puffy clouds with dark bellies hung in the sky.

Then we saw the sign and I remembered Oz. And, for a moment, I forgot about my stupid car and nothing else really mattered.

The park was dedicated several years ago to Oz and Dorothy Hawksley – a couple whose lives centered on conservation. Oz helped create this tall grass prairie in 1997 as a member of the Park Board, and 15 years later it is thriving.

I don’t know why, but today was the first time I visited the prairie. And it is magnificent.

A trail wanders through this seven-acre prairie, and immediately we saw blackberry bushes, Black-eyed Susans, and grass as tall as my chest.

My son walked ahead and immediately I thought, this is fun and there’s no line. There’s absolutely nobody around. It’s quiet except for the birds and the wind. The blackberry bushes are full of fruit, and I felt proud to tell my son that this is what a natural prairie looks like.

We have Oz to thank for this great park.

I’ve written about Oz a couple of times, and the last time was for the university’s alumni magazine, Today. Our interview was the day before his 90th birthday and his memory was still just as sharp as his cussing.

Oz is fascinating. His park is fascinating. Oh, and he helped protect scenic waterways, published a popular guide to Missouri waterways, published research on caves and the fossils discovered there, started a scientific journal, a statewide caving organization and a Kansas City-based floating group that still exists some 50 years later.

Anyway, the trail curves and makes its way back near the entrance. The trail also splits here and veers off into the woods. You end up at the soccer fields, but the trail picks up on the other side.

This is the reason my son wanted to come to this park in the first place – for the creek. We peeled off the trail and headed down a ravine to the creek, which basically follows the trail back to the parking lot.

Minnows and crawdads are everywhere. There are little waterfalls and a small pool in one spot where the granddaddy minnows congregate. Wading upstream through the chilly water, checking out the rocks, the steep walls of the ravine and animal tracks – we didn’t have to buy any tickets, wait in any lines or worry about other people to have a wicked summer adventure.

Thanks Oz.

Tender, ripe blackberries at the Turkey Foot Prairie.

Fleabane mingles with the berries.

Some type of sunflower rises above.

And the grass is tall…

I gave up on my Internet search as I tried to identify this one. My wife persisted and we learned this spiky plant has a cool name — rattlesnake master.

And there’s honey locust…

This trail travels alongside an awesome creek.

The awesome creek…

This little pool had a bunch of really big minnows, and someone was on high alert for snakes.

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  1. #1 by rmkinder on June 17, 2012 - 1:32 pm

    I didn’t know about this place. And it has a creek! I love creeks, in spite of snakes. Actually, I photograph snakes. To to point, though–enjoyed this post very much.

  2. #2 by pam on June 17, 2012 - 2:24 pm

    Thanks again Matt ( Son) for your writings. Love the Story and Photo’s. Your are such an awesome Father. Happy Father’s Day to you.

  3. #3 by Bruce Uhler on February 10, 2013 - 7:50 am

    Thanks Matt

  4. #4 by Porter on March 7, 2013 - 10:45 pm

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