Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Journals

Home on the Range: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

A December 2003 trip to Tallgrass Prairie Preserve by meadowlark

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas More Photos
Quote: A recent addition to the National Park System, this 11,000-acre gem in the Flint Hills of central-eastern Kansas preserves the natural beauty of the Tallgrass Prairie ecosystem that once covered the central United States.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
Experience the beauty of what once was: National Geographic writes: "The Flint Hills of Kansas are our ocean, our mountains, our mecca. . . You'll probably get lost on the unmarked, unpaved roads but allow yourself this adventure through rolling and endless ranchland dotted by countless wildflowers and exquisite prairie grasses anchored by the impressive big bluestem." Explore the wilderness: Tallgrass, as high as 7 or 8 feet in the late summer, once swept the entire plains area of the central United States. The best views of this ocean of grass are from the Prairie Overlook, two walking natural trails, or i...Read More

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "1--Z Bar/Spring Hill Ranch"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
What to do: The entrance to the park is right off the main road (Highway 177) and is easy to spot with the sign and the large limestone barn and house (plus Highway 177 is a small, two-lane, well-maintained, paved road so it's hard to get lost). At the gate where you enter on foot, there is a sign with loads of information. Don't miss the little metal box on the bottom left-hand side where you can pick up this self-guided walking tour pamphlet. History of the park: The park sits on nearly 11,000 acres but less than 200 of these acres are owned by the National Park Service (NPS). The rest are owned by a private conservation group called the National Park Tru...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "2--The Barn"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
The barn is very impressive and is not to be missed (although this would be hard to do given its size and proximity to the parking lot). It is built mainly out of native limestone, which is sturdy and fireproof, and its dimensions are 60 by 110 feet, with two floors. Limestone also has the ability to keep the barn relatively cool in the summer. When the barn was built, it was 2 feet short of being the largest barn in Kansas. It is built on the side of a hill so that two large ramps lead up to the second floor. The barn is long enough that they could drive a team of horses pulling a wagon of hay into the barn and still have enough room to turn around and come out. The barn was used to shelter far...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "3 -- The Chicken Coop and Carriage House"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
The two outbuildings across from the barn include the chicken house and the carriage house. The chicken house is the more interesting of the two, but neither will take more than a few minutes to look at. The chicken house is probably one of the nicest chicken homes in the world since it is made out of limestone (which would keep the temperatures moderate in both extreme cold and heat) with a sod roof. A sod roof here means that if you look on top of the structure, you see a mound of soil with grass growing on it. In front of the coop is an old-fashioned gas pump, which is fun for children and was probably once used to fill up ranch equipment. The carriage house, with its large white do...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "4 -- The Limestone Mansion"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
The main house is not a typical Kansas farmhouse from the 1800s. It was made from limestone, as was the barn and other out-buildings, and the construction of the house and barn cost $40,000 in 1881, which would be more like millions of dollars today. An excellent tour is given of the house by the National Park Service rangers hourly from 9:30am-3:30pm; although with fewer visitors in the winter, you can basically get a personal tour when you show up. The tour begins with a 15-minute video off the back porch in a large room that originally would have been Jones' office. It has a large, floor-length window that can open to allow access to a small balcony from which the rancher could have a c...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "5 -- "The Vital Necessities" exhibit"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
The Smoke House and Outhouse are part of the out-buildings located just behind the house. There is a sign here explaining their functions. Turning right after leaving the back porch of the main house, the smoke house (or summer kitchen) is the first building on the right. Some of the cookery and other utensils have been left there to give the visitor some idea of what was done there. A quick look in the building (you can't go any further) gives you not only a view of the one room but a nice view of the ranch through the little circular window. The next "vital necessity" is the outhouse which is actually a "three-seater" complete with seat lids, glass windows with curtains, and on...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "6 -- Cistern and Ice House"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
Jones carefully selected the site for his ranch complex, the guide says, such that the house was built just below the hill where the spring was. The cistern and Ice House allowed him to collect water for the house and to keep a place quite cool so that in the winter they could cut huge chunks of ice or snow and keep them in the ice house for use on hot summer days. This seemed a bit unbelievable--that the ice would last through the seering hot Kansas summer--but apparently the limestone and ground protected the ice from heat and the spring provided a cooling source. Neither of these buildings are open to the public; however, groups of 15 or more can arrange for an hour and a half tour of the house and...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "7 -- "Discover the Prairie""

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
At the top of the hills where the ice house is, you can get your first (elevated) view of the expanse of prairie that the ranch complex sits on. After taking a moment to take in the landscape, follow the sign/path past the ice house (on your right) into the little woods. This is the way to the overlook point and the beginning of the 1.75-mile trail. It is only a few minutes walk to the overlook, so it is definitely worth continuing. Also if you wanted a better view of the roof of the chicken house or a picture of the barn, this is a good spot.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "Stop -- 8 Prairie Overlook"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
The Overlook is one of the highlights of a short trip to this park because of the great views of the vast expanse of prairie. Less than a 5-minute walk from the main house, it has great views, informational signs, and a few benches. It is also the beginning of the 1.75-mile Southwind Nature Trail that takes you through the tallgrass to the small school house and then back to the front of the house. The self-guided tour encourages you to consider while looking at the prairie what the influence of the vast treeless fields are with the seemingly infinite distance of the horizon had on the people who settled here. The native tallgrass here survived because the rich soil in the Flint Hills is to...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Attraction | "Southwind Nature Trail"

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Photo, Emporia, Kansas
Quote:
The Southwind Nature Trail takes you from the Prairie Outlook to the Lower Fox Creek School and back to the front of the main house via a path through the tallgrass prairie. Although we did not go on the trail because of the snow, we do plan to go back in the spring. Here is what the park says about the trail: "A leisurely stroll across hill and valley, watercourse, and prairie grassland, gives visitors a close-up look at that which truly makes up the prairie preserve. Named for Kansas Indians, the People of the Southwind, the 1.75-mile trail presents marvelous vistas as well as an opportunity for a detailed look at the prairie ecosystem. =The trail winds across rolling hills, over a spring-fed ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 10, 2003

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Strong City, Kansas
(620) 273-8494