Escape Into Willa Cather's Prairie Landscapes
Explore the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie
"We come and go, but the land is always here...” —O Pioneers!
Visit Red Cloud and immerse yourself in the prairie settings and landscapes that inspired so much of Willa Cather's writing. Late spring and summer are perfect times of the year to plan a visit to the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie and to get acquainted with the surrounding countryside. Located five miles south of Red Cloud on the Kansas border, this preserved 612 acres of never-been-plowed prairie is just north of the geographic center of the contiguous United States (located just down Highway 281 near Lebanon, Kansas).
If you're searching for the best location for a spectacular Nebraska sunset, sunrise, or even to view the starry dark night sky, look no further. The prairie pageant changes in each month and season. Wildflowers abound in early summer and for much of August you will find "sunflower-bordered roads"—just as Willa Cather described them in My Ántonia. In summer and early fall, you can also catch the spectacular light display put on by fireflies at the prairie and in surrounding meadows. Before you visit the prairie, be sure to stop at the National Willa Cather Center Bookstore and borrow a free Prairie Exploration Backpack. Sign out one for each of your children or yourself to further explore our prairie wonders with a full naturalist's kit.
Guided tours of the prairie are available by pre-arrangement and our Prairie Tour delves into the natural history of native prairie land within the context of Willa Cather’s writings. Another way to lose yourself in Cather's world is to take our guided Country Tour which highlights twenty historic sites related to the life and writing of Willa Cather. This immersive tour takes visitors through roughly fifty miles deep into the Webster County countryside, and includes settings from Willa Cather's novels and childhood: homesteads and related cemeteries, churches, the Pavelka Farm made famous in My Ántonia, and the Republican River where the Cather children played and explored. We also encourage you to take a variety of other guided tours of our historic sites that depart from the National Willa Cather Center, or our self-guided tour.
A virtual prairie tour is available on our free, downloadable National Willa Cather Center app or scroll down to view two exquisite narrated videos of our prairie experiences.
CONTACT: To schedule a Country or Prairie Tour, or for additional information, contact Rachel Olsen, Education Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or or (402) 746-2653.
LODGING: We offer comfortable and unique historic lodging through Airbnb at the Cather Second Home Guest House—a Cather family home—and the Villa Willa, a modern and spacious loft-style apartment above the National Willa Cather Center.
OTHER ACTIVITIES: Check our EVENTS page throughout the year for upcoming performances, programs, and exhibits — held at the Red Cloud Opera House and National Willa Cather Center — to plan around your Red Cloud visit. Nick Powers, our Visitors Services Coordinator, can also assist you in planning your visit: email@example.com or (402) 746-2653.
PLEASE NOTE: The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie is open year-round, twenty-four hours a day. There is a parking lot with adjacent interpretive signage. It does not offer restroom facilities, water for human consumption, or storm shelter in case of severe weather. Please plan ahead, watch the skies, and stay safe while you visit! Click HERE for more about our prairie guidelines.
In 2023, celebrate our native grasslands and pollinators on National Prairie Day, on Saturday, June 3, and during National Pollinator Week, June 19-15
"I wanted to walk straight on through the red grass and over the edge of the world, which could not be very far away. The light air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left, and if one went a little farther there would be only sun and sky, and one would float off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed over our heads making slow shadows on the grass. . . ."
Can't visit in person? Take these virtual prairie tours any time with our Education Director, Tracy Tucker, who shares her beautiful images and informative narration.
Our longer version, with Willa Cather readings:
[Videos created: June 2021]