McKnight Prairie is a 33.5 acre area owned by Carleton about seven miles east of Northfield. The hilltops of McKnight were never extensively disturbed, and they remain intact native ecosystems with many native prairie species. Sand specialists such as Aster oblongifolius, Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama), and even Opuntia humifusa (prickly pear cactus) thrive on the dry hilltops. The area around the hills was once cultivated, but has been recolonized by native tallgrass prairie species dominated by Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) and Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass). McKnight’s populations of native plants have served as an important local seed source for nearby prairie restorations in the Arb.
McKnight is a also an important resource for students. Students visit McKnight to study prairie organisms in a dynamic native ecosystem, the geomorphology of the hilltops, or to see firsthand a relic of the prairie landscape that once stretched across the American frontier.
While McKnight is open to public use we ask that all visitors follow these site rules:
- No bikes or motorized vehicles allowed, except for maintenance or emergency.
- No hunting, camping or fires.
- No dogs or other pets
- No bikes or horses.
- Geocache placement is permitted only with approval from the Carleton Arboretum Director
- Non-Carleton College group use of McKnight Prairie is welcome but groups of ten or more must register to avoid conflicts with other users and to protect the natural resources.
- Collecting of any plant or animal, including seeds, is prohibited unless part of an approved research project.