Enjoy a commanding view of the lush Iowa hills and 30 acres of recreated prairie surrounding the Museum of Danish America in the Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park. Designed in 2011 and installed in 2012, the park is intended to celebrate the life and work of Jens Jensen, a Danish immigrant who became one of America's leading landscape architects. A colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright, Jensen pioneered the “Prairie School” of landscape architecture and is celebrated today as an early advocate for native plants and the conservation of natural spaces.
By restoring native plant life and hydrology, the park aims to provide wildlife and pollinator habitat and to increase plant diversity. It also has the potential to emulate an Iowa prairie in the manner that homesteaders may have encountered when they first settled here, before all of the changes that those same homesteaders brought.
Open daily from dawn to dusk
Native plants, outdoor exhibits, innovative Danish-designed outdoor fitness equipment, council rings, and picnic areas!
Restoring and maintaining a prairie ecosystem requires a lot of work. You may notice mowed, burned, or chemically treated areas in the park, depending on the time of year; know that these are part of an effort to prevent the young prairie from being overtaken before it has the chance to establish itself.
See our summer 2017 Purple Martin colony here.
The prairie ecosystem continues atop the Cecilia Christensen Curatorial Center just west of the museum entrance. A green roof planted with native grasses and forbs maximizes energy efficiency and increases the thermal barrier between the outdoor environment and artifact storage areas. Explore the roof via the paved walkway and informational signage that describes some of the plant life, as well as the roof’s construction.
Breathe in the fresh western Iowa air on our 0.6-mile paved pedestrian path that runs through the park and connects the museum’s main building with Bedstemor’s House. Along this path, you may notice that the prairie looks a bit different from the prairie near Jens Dixen's cabin. These prairies were seeded at different times and with different mixes. The East Council Ring is located here.
Outdoor Fitness Equipment
The fitness equipment installed here was designed and made in Denmark. In keeping with Jensen's vision for public parks, this "outdoor room" offers an opportunity to enjoy an activity in nature that would otherwise take place in an indoor center.
The wetland was restored by removing the drain tiles that had previously been used by farmers to drain excess water from the soil. A berm with a water control structure allows museum staff to manage the water levels. The wetland provides habitat for frogs, semiaquatic mammals such as muskrats, and waterfowl and shorebirds such as killdeer.