McKnight Prairie is a 33.5 acre plot of land owned by Carleton about seven miles east of campus. The hilltops of McKnight were never extensively disturbed and they remain intact native ecosystems with diverse assemblages of 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.