History and Preservation of Unit 2


The U.S. Great Plains is an area of more than a million square miles of land that extends 3000 miles from North Central Texas through the Central United States and into to Western Canada, where it is known as the Canadian Great Plains.   


Looking back 250 million years this existing rock formation in Texas was covered by a  shallow inland sea. Over millions of years volcanic chains and earthquake belts were created and died; mountains and rivers were formed; dinosaurs roamed the area and then were suddenly extinct. Millions of years later, more dynamic geologic and climatic events occurred, the sea gradually receded leaving a flat floor of fertile marine deposits and wind, rain, temperature continued to change the face of Texas


Looking back a mere 15,000 years, hunter-gatherers continually inhabited the prairies which were favorable to grazers like mammoths, mastodons and other ancient animals until they became extinct around 13,000 years ago. Recovered stone tools and fossils revealed that people were living in North Central Texas beginning at least 10,000 years ago and we know that Native Americans settled the areas in the 17th century. These hunter-gatherers including the Wichita, Comanche and Caddo tribes maintained the prairies by using controlled burns to make the land suitable for hunting bison and other game which encouraged over 30 million bison to take up residence and thrive.

courtesy of Native Prairies Association of Texas


A smaller part of this prairie known as the Blackland Prairie ecoregion extends approximately 300 miles from the Red River through Dallas/Ft Worth to San Antonio encompassing approximately 19,000 square miles. The fertile Blackland prairie soil also known as ‘black gumbo” is some of the richest in the world according to the Texas A & M Forest Service and made these temperate grassland areas ideal for farming and for raising cattle. Beginning in the early 1800s many of the  Native American tribes were gradually replaced by Euro-Americans who settled in these areas. By the end of the 19th century cotton, corn, wheat and hay production boomed. This land was so valuable that crops were planted everywhere possible - along roadsides, in unfenced areas and in fields that were cleared all the way to the creek banks. Property ownership, ranching, tree removal, habitat fragmentation and  irrigated farming led to widespread habitat loss. Today it is estimated less than one percent of the Blackland Prairie remains according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and part of that can be found at White Rock Lake.





White Rock Lake is home to 16 remaining remnant blocks of prairie, encompassing 162 acres that are considered tall grass prairies. Although these prairies may not match what you envision as endless miles of tall grass blowing in the wind, they are a small surviving reminder of the past. All 16 of these locations have very similar characteristics including soil composition, flora and fauna, so visiting any of these  areas  would  provide an excellent model of the others. Unit 2 is one of these remnants  and is a 13 acre parcel of land near the northeast end of White Rock Lake, just north of Mockingbird Lane and next to Buckner Blvd. Unit 2 continued to quietly exist during the Great Depression and today continues to provide a prime example of an unplowed remnant prairie.  In 1933 President Roosevelt initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps as a public improvement/jobs program with a focus on conservation and protection of our natural resources. As part of this effort, these workers built terraced berms which were created for erosion control in some areas of Unit 2 and are still present today. 



In the last few decades, in response to continued habitat loss, scientists, conservation-minded professionals, volunteers and donors began a concerted effort to study, understand and preserve these tiny remaining historic relics. Since the late 1990s a significant amount of progress has been made. The White Rock Prairie Restoration/Preservation Project was formed in 1999 under the direction of wildlife biologist Becky Rader and Brett Johnson, the Urban Biologist for the City of Dallas. Project participants have contributed an enormous amount of time and effort to “maintain or restore the best prairie habitat that can be achieved.” The North Texas Master Naturalist Organization  (NTMN) signed a “Beautification Agreement” with the City in 2016 and was assigned Unit 2, as our remnant prairie. The NTMN 2020 class project focusing on invasive species removal for the last three years and the 2023 class project is to educate the public about this remnant prairie via a virtual interpretive tour to discover the site’s features, flora, fauna and natural history.

Prairies are valuable for many reasons. They hold water, feed the aquifers and help clean and filter North Texas’ water. The deep roots of grasses and wildflowers capture vast quantities of carbon dioxide and prevent soil erosion and help prevent flooding. Based on an ecological impact per square acre compared to forests or wetlands…… PRAIRIES DO IT BETTER !