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Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie is a nearly 11,000-acre preserve in Chase County in the Flint Hills region of Kansas.  The park is unique in that it is owned by a private organization - the Nature Conservancy, but managed by the National Park Service.  It is one of the largest protected areas of tallgrass prairie left in the United States.  Tallgrass prairie once covered over 100 million acres of central North America, but now most has been converted to cropland.  The majority that remains in a natural state is in the Flint Hills region.  The Flint Hills are so named due to layers of chert or flint in the limestone of the area.  Rocky ground was difficult to plow, so the settlers primarily used the land for grazing.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:
2480B KS Hwy 177
Strong City, KS 66869

Phone: (620) 273-8494

Directions:

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is located north of Strong City on KS-177.  From I-35 in Emporia, take exit 127A for US-50 west.  Go 17.5 miles and turn right on KS-177 north.  The preserve is on the left in 2.4 miles.

Map:

Trails:

Bus Tour Road:

The Bus Tour Road is a gravel road through the preserve that is also open to hiking.  It runs through Windmill Pasture so is the best chance for seeing Bison.  We were unable to hike the entire trail as a herd of bison were blocking the trail and didn't seem like they were going to move for us.

Southwind Nature Trail:

Southwind Nature Trail is a 1.75-mile loop with a mowed grass surface.  It can be accessed from the Lower Fox Creek School parking area of from the Spring Hill Ranch.

Points of Interest:

Lower Fox Creek School:

Lower Fox Creek School was constructed in 1882 and classes began here in 1884, continuing until 1930.  The land for the school was donated by Stephen Jones, who was the original owner of Spring Hill Ranch.

Spring Hill Ranch Complex:

The Spring Hill Ranch Complex contains the beautiful ranch house and several other outbuildings.


All of the buildings are constructed of cottonwood limestone, which was quarried locally from the Flint Hills.

Wildlife:

A herd of American bison (Bison bison) were introduced to the preserve in 2009.  The bison can be found in Windmill Pasture.  In the summer, there are tram tours through the prairie to see the bison or you can hike the Bus Tour Road through the pasture.


Remember that these are wild animals and can be very dangerous.  Adult bulls can weigh more than a metric ton and can charge at more than 30 mph.  Keep a safe distance.  When we visited, the herd was blocking the trail; when it was clear they weren't going to move for us, we had to turn around.


Besides the bison, the prairie is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife.  Wildflowers can bloom most of the year without the canopy of a forest.  We saw some azure blue sage (Salvia azurea) along the trail in October.


Besides being beautiful, the wildflowers provide food for many species of birds and insects.  This tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) flower has a spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) and another bug on it.


We also saw a green stink bug on our hike.

Blog Entries:

External Links:

National Park Service website: https://www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm