The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a Kansas park dedicated to the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Tallgrass prairies at one time covered over 400,000 square miles of land in the United States. Today, less than one percent of this area remains, and most of it is located in the Flint Hills in Kansas. This made the perfect place to develop a park in Kansas dedicated to this fading ecosystem.
The Kansas park was created in 1996 as a partnership between the National Park System and the National Park Trust. To date it contains a nature conservatory on site that works on preserving the existing tallgrass prairie.
Open year round from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., this Kansas park is only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. There is no entrance fee for the park and no camping is allowed. It is located just outside Strong City, Kansas. Group tours with fifteen or more people can be arranged by contacting the park office.
In addition to the natural grassland, the park in Kansas also includes a limestone barn and outbuildings, a one-room schoolhouse and the historic ranch house built in 1881. Tours of the ranch house, hiking trails and prairie bus tours are all available to visitors. During the summer the park also offers special living history programs such as rock wall building, historic cooking, blacksmithing, gardening, knitting, butter churning, soap making, crocheting, roping, quilting, and doing laundry at the ranch.
Prairie bus tours are offered to visitors and last about one and one-half hours. These are led by national park service rangers. During the tour, you learn about the various plants and animals the ecosystem provides habitation for, the limestone and other rocks that formed and are present in the Flint Hills today, American Indians and their way of life, and the legacy of ranching.
The park also has two hiking trails that allow visitors to experience first hand the prairie grass ecosystem and its wildlife. Southwind nature trail is 1.75 miles in length and is named for the Kansas Indians. The Bottomland nature trail varies in length from one-half mile to three-fourths mile. This trail allows visitors to experience the lowland prairie, which differs from the tallgrass area. The Bottomland trail also contains remains of a railroad used to ship cattle from the area to Kansas City, and it is handicap accessible.
Once a year, the park holds a volkswalk, which is a six or ten kilometer walk for participants and visitors. This provides great fitness for individuals or families participating. Fun is also involved, as the park does have special activities throughout this day for participants and visitors.
The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve truly is a one-of-a-kind Kansas park. For those wanting to experience Kansas as it was when the pioneers lived, this park in Kansas provides the best insight. In addition to the historic buildings and activities provided by the National Park Service, it also provides a glimpse of the landscape as it was back then. The open range, the natural flowers and grasses, mixed in with the wild animals in their natural habitat, this Kansas park is great for nature lovers.