Distance: Approximately 8 mile loop (12.9 km)
Elevation: 1,200-1,495 feet (368 - 456 m)
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Time of Year: Year Round
Located in the Flint Hills of Kansas, is the 10,800 acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. It is owned by The Nature Conservancy, but operated by the National Park Service as the only national park unit dedicated to preserving and protecting the tallgrass prairies that once spanned some 240 million acres of the Great Plains. At over 10,000 acres, it is large enough that from the center of it, it looks vast and almost unending, much like it did before the homesteaders plowed the plains.
It was best described at Homestead National Monument in Nebraska that "once the homesteads were tiny islands in a sea of prairie, but now the prairies themselves are tiny islands in a sea of farmland". But, the Flint Hills retain the most extensive tracts of intact and semi-intact prairies left. The reason is that the Flint Hills are made of limestone and the soils here are very thin. Thus, homesteaders were unable to plow the prairies under. Instead, grazing cattle was the only option. While cows do not graze exactly the way bison do, they were a partial substitute for the loss of bison and less disruptive to the ecosystem than farming.
|They released 14 bison in the preserve last year. |
The first time in 130 years bison have grazed this prairie
|Limestone gravel road is the first part of the route|
|Leaving the hilltop and walking on the "grassy road"|
|Solitude on the prairie|