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Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie Learning Center
9981 Pacific Street, Prairie City, IA 50228-0399
515-994-3400
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Owner description: This is the largest prairie reconstruction project in the United States.
Madison, Wisconsin
Top Contributor
53 reviews 53 reviews
18 attraction reviews
Reviews in 36 cities Reviews in 36 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
“Great Sunday Adventure”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 9, 2012

My wife and I live down the road from here in Pella. Only recently did we find out that there was a huge learning center and you could go see LIVE Bison and Elk. We had a great time!

It starts with a very nice drive in, it was winter when we went but I can only imagine how pretty it must be in the spring with hundreds of acres of flowers in bloom and waving prairie grasses. It's a 4.5 mile drive from hwy 163 to the learning center. The whole place, refuge and learning center is bigger than I expected. Inside they had a theater that plays an intro video when requested. It give you background info about prairies and what they do there. When you leave the theater, it directs you right into the educational exhibits. Some about prairies, some about what the National fish and wildlife board do there, some about Native Americans and early European settlers. A few of the exhibits are a bit dated but still informative.

They have a really nice bookstore there with more than just souvenirs for kids to buy. Field guides, books on art, Iowa history, Native Americans, and nature themed gifts.

After you tour the center you can hike the miles of trails or take the auto tour in you can right through the 700 acres where the Elk and Bison live.

We'll visit again in the spring!

Visited December 2012
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41 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Jefferson, Iowa, United States
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“A real natural”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 25, 2012

There is much to see and do there. Bison, elk, and every kind of indigenous critter you would expect to find in Iowa. We helped with the butterfly taging and it was great fun and a very rewarding event for us. Hope we can make it again next year!

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Des Moines, Iowa
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
“A quiet getaway...”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 16, 2012

If you enjoy nature and being able to see how Iowa would look in an undeveloped world, this is the place to go. The trails are easy to access, and the educational center is fun and informative. The staff is friendly and knowledagable.

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Austin TX
Top Contributor
173 reviews 173 reviews
23 attraction reviews
Reviews in 90 cities Reviews in 90 cities
92 helpful votes 92 helpful votes
“A hidden jewel in Iowa”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 6, 2012

We ate lunch at a great diner in Prairie City (Goldie's Ice Cream Shoppe). Our waitress suggested we check out this place, and we're so glad we did! The visitor center is huge, with very well designed displays that teach you so much about the original American prairie and their work to restore it. We spent at least two hours there and drove through the refuge, too.

Visited October 2012
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Redmond, Washington
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
“Exceeded expectations!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 24, 2012

We visited in late August and were delighted with the refuge. I and my 3 kids, 13,10 &4, spent at least an hour and a half in the visitors center. The exhibits are interactive and the film is one of the best made I've ever seen in a setting like this. You can check out a CD from the front desk to play while driving through the range which gives an excellent explanation of how the refuge was built and highlights. We encountered bison several times :) We left a bit jealous of locals who would be able to volunteer the following weekend tagging monarch butterflies.

Visited August 2012
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