Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve by Strong City KS

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve by Strong City KS

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On one of the hottest days of the year, with the Kansas sun blazing above and the prairie grasses shimmering in the relentless heat, I embarked on a memorable journey to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Joining me in this adventurous escapade was my good friend Toni Schneider, a fellow nature enthusiast and resident of picturesque Chase County who also happens to be the Executive Director of the Chase County Chamber of Commerce.

A Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching While Camping or Hiking

As we ventured into the heart of Kansas’ natural heritage, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the unique beauty and history that unfolded before us. This is truly one of the wonders of Kansas – a sea of grass dotted with a few large grazing animals, to create a place where the past and present coexist in perfect harmony and invites all who visit to witness the timeless beauty of this natural treasure.

Our day at the Tallgrass Prairie was not just a quest for adventure; it was a deep dive into the soul of this remarkable landscape, where the spirit of the prairie has been preserved for generations to come.

Exploring the Beauty of Kansas’ Natural Heritage

Welcome to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, a unique and beautiful destination located in the heart of the Flint Hills of Kansas. This 10,894-acre preserve is the only unit of the National Park System dedicated to the rich natural and cultural history of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

I would learn things such as once covering 170 million acres of North America, the tallgrass prairie was a vital part of the continent’s ecology. Today, less than 4% remains intact, mostly in the Kansas Flint Hills. Established on November 12, 1996, the preserve protects a nationally significant remnant of the once-vast tallgrass prairie. Through preservation efforts, visitors are able to experience the beauty and wonder of this unique ecosystem.

Here, amidst the rhythmic whisper of the wind and the occasional glimpse of grazing bison, we found ourselves immersed in the very essence of Kansas—a state where the beauty of nature and the legacy of history harmoniously converge.

the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve by Strong City KS
Just look at that view! In the distance you can see large grazing animals – under the perfect blue sky


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve carries within its heart a rich and storied history that stretches back to the 1800s, providing a captivating glimpse into the past of the Kansas prairie.  In the 1800s, European settlers began to make their homes in the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The prairie, with its fertile soil and abundant grasses, became a haven for ranching and agriculture.

During this era, the Chisholm Trail passed through the region, connecting ranches in Texas to railheads in Kansas. The sight of cattle drives and cowboys herding their livestock across the vast prairie landscape became an iconic image of the American West.


In 1996, a significant milestone was reached in the conservation of the Kansas landscape with the establishment of the preserve. Encompassing an expansive expanse of over 10,000 acres, this preserve was conceived with a singular purpose—to safeguard the remarkable tallgrass prairie ecosystem, a habitat recognized as one of the most endangered in all of North America. 

A Precious Biodiversity: At its core, the preserve serves as a sanctuary for a diverse array of plant and animal species that have called this prairie home for centuries. Here, amidst the undulating sea of grass, you’ll encounter iconic residents like the bison, whose majestic presence has become synonymous with the American West, alongside the vibrant displays of prairie chickens and a colorful tapestry of wildflowers.

Spring Hill Farm and Ranch
See Toni and our lovely Ranger guide!

Spring Hill Farm and Ranch

The Spring Hill Farm and Ranch—a living testament to the enduring legacy of the Kansas prairie and the vital role it played in the region’s development.

A Century of Heritage: The historic ranch complex, dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, weaves a compelling narrative of a bygone era. Comprising a charming farmhouse, a rugged yet picturesque limestone barn, and other rustic outbuildings, the Spring Hill Farm and Ranch exudes the timeless charm of frontier life.

Spring Hill Farm and Ranch bedroom
Just look at this restored bedroom – you can imagine the heyday of the ranch

The Jones Family Legacy: For generations, the Jones family owned and operated this ranch, leaving an indelible mark on the local community and the preservation of the prairie itself. The ranch’s historical significance is interwoven with the broader story of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where past and present seamlessly merge to offer visitors a poignant connection to the heritage of the Kansas prairie.

As you explore the preserve, you’ll not only witness the natural wonders of the tallgrass prairie but also be invited to step into the pages of history, experiencing the enduring beauty of this remarkable landscape and the dedication of those who have worked tirelessly to protect it.

Spring Hill Farm and Ranch Parlour
I can just see walking into this room with a tray of cold lemonade and welcoming guests

Preservation Efforts: Safeguarding Our Natural and Cultural Heritage

The creation of the preserve is fascinating. It shows commitment to preserving it has been an ongoing endeavor, spanning many years and encompassing a multifaceted approach aimed at nurturing both the land and its heritage.

Restoring Historic Treasures: Among the notable preservation efforts are the meticulous restoration of historic buildings within the preserve. These venerable structures, steeped in the history of the Kansas prairie, have been lovingly revitalized, allowing visitors to step back in time and gain a deeper appreciation of the past.

Spring Hill Farm and Ranch barn
Check out all the kinds of information around the limestone barn!

The Majestic Return of Bison: Another remarkable chapter in the preservation story is the successful reintroduction of bison to the prairie. These magnificent animals, once on the brink of extinction, now roam freely within the preserve, contributing to the restoration of the prairie’s ecological balance and serving as a living testament to the resilience of both nature and conservation efforts.

Combating Invasive Species: The battle against invasive plant species has been a crucial element of the preservation agenda. Through strategic initiatives, the preserve has worked tirelessly to protect the native flora and fauna, ensuring the continued health and vitality of this fragile ecosystem.

Spring Hill Farm and Ranch
Um, so this is for the kids to try and I couldn’t get on it, LOL!

Educational Engagement: Recognizing the importance of education in fostering a deeper connection to the land, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve offers a range of educational programs and guided tours. These initiatives provide visitors with invaluable insights into the rich history and intricate ecology of the preserve, fostering a sense of stewardship for this unique landscape.

A Heritage Worth Preserving: In its entirety, Tallgrass Prairie stands not only as an embodiment of American history, but also as a testament to the dedication required to protect a precious natural and cultural legacy. It is a place where past, present, and future converge, and where the tireless efforts of preservationists ensure that this extraordinary landscape endures for generations to come.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve by Strong City KS
Check out this limestone barn – you can go inside and learn a lot!

Flora and Fauna

The preserve is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. The park is known for its tallgrass prairie, which is dominated by tall grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, and Indian grasses. It is the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie left in the United States. The park is also home to a number of wildflowers, including the purple cone-flower, black-eyed Susan, and butterfly milkweed.

In addition to its plant life, the park is also home to a diverse range of animal species. The park is home to a number of mammals, including a small satellite herd of bison, elk, and white-tailed deer. The park is also home to a wide variety of bird species, including the greater prairie chicken, Henslow’s sparrow, and the grasshopper sparrow.

Overall, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a unique and diverse ecosystem that is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. Whether you are interested in hiking, bird watching (Check out A Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching While Camping or Hiking), or just enjoying the natural beauty of the park, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this beautiful national preserve.

Visitor Information

Planning a visit to the preserve? Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your trip.

Getting There

It is located in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The park is approximately 90 miles northeast of Wichita and 120 miles southwest of Kansas City. The closest major airport is Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT), which is about a 2-hour drive from the park.

If you’re driving, the park is located just off of U.S. Highway 50 and K-177 (Flint Hills National Scenic Byway) intersection.

Grand Central Hotel and Grill bedroom
Just look at this spacious room at the Grand Central Hote!!

Where to Stay: Discovering Cottonwood Falls

When planning your visit to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the enchanting landscapes of Chase County, one of the most charming and convenient places to make your home base is the picturesque town of Cottonwood Falls. Nestled amid the rolling Flint Hills, Cottonwood Falls offers a range of inviting accommodations, from cozy bed-and-breakfast inns to comfortable guesthouses.

The Ideal Getaway: Staying in Cottonwood Falls provides an ideal balance of accessibility to the preserve and a tranquil retreat in a quintessential small-town atmosphere. After a day of exploring the prairie and immersing yourself in history, you can return to the welcoming embrace of this charming town.

For detailed recommendations on where to stay in Cottonwood Falls and the surrounding area, including the best bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses, be sure to check out this article on Traveling Cheesehead. It offers insights into the perfect accommodation for your visit, ensuring a comfortable and memorable stay as you explore the beauty and heritage of Chase County, Kansas.

I love the touches that people don’t seem to take the time to do today, like this cool fence of field stone!


The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is home to a variety of attractions that will appeal to visitors of all ages. The park’s main attraction is the tallgrass prairie itself, which has several hiking trails through it. Visitors can explore the prairie by hiking on one of the park’s many trails or by taking a guided tour.

Wild bison often appear docile but will attack when they feel threatened. Remember: don’t pet the fluffy cows and they aren’t meant to be in your selfie.

In addition to the prairie, the park is home to several historic buildings that provide a glimpse into the area’s past. The Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse is a one-room schoolhouse that was built in 1882 and used until 1940. The Z Bar/Spring Hill Ranch House is a historic ranch house that was built in the 1880s and is now a museum.

trail map
There are plenty of trails to hike – with or without your dog. Take water and a map as you may not have cell service out there!


There are plenty of activities to keep you busy during your visit to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Hiking is a popular activity, and the park has several trails that range in length and difficulty. The trails offer stunning views of the prairie and are a great way to explore the park’s flora and fauna.

If you’re interested in learning more about the park’s history and ecology, be sure to stop by the visitor center. The center has exhibits on geology, ecology, history, and the cultures that shaped today’s Tallgrass Prairie. Park rangers are also available to answer questions and provide brochures and trail maps.

Finally, if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the park’s resident bison herd. The bison roam freely throughout the park and are a highlight for many visitors. Just be sure to keep a safe distance and never approach or feed the animals.

dog and his suitcase

Bringing Your Furry Friends: A Pet-Friendly Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve welcomes four-legged adventurers, ensuring that your beloved pets can be a part of your Kansas prairie experience. Here are some important details to keep in mind:

Exploring with Your Pup: Your canine companions are welcome to join you on designated trails throughout the preserve. Be sure to keep them on a 6-foot leash at all times, and don’t forget to bring along waste bags to responsibly pick up after your furry friend.

Hydration Stations: To ensure your pet stays comfortable during your visit, there are convenient dog bowls filled with fresh water strategically placed throughout the preserve. Keeping your pet hydrated is essential, especially during the warm Kansas summers.

Indoor Restrictions: While the outdoor areas are perfect for a day of adventure with your dog, it’s important to note that only service dogs are allowed inside the buildings. Please plan accordingly and ensure your pup has a safe and enjoyable visit to the preserve.

With these guidelines in mind, you and your furry family members can embark on a memorable journey through the prairie, creating cherished moments amid the breathtaking landscapes of the preserve.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve are focused on preserving the unique ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie. The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service work together to protect and restore the prairie, which is home to a variety of plant and animal species.

Current Projects

One of the current projects at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is the restoration of the prairie ecosystem. This involves removing invasive species, planting native grasses and wildflowers, and carefully managing the land to promote the growth of the prairie. The preserve also works to protect the prairie’s wildlife, including bison, elk, and prairie dogs.

Another current project is the preservation of the historic buildings and structures on the preserve. These buildings tell the story of the people who lived and worked on the prairie, and they are an important part of the preserve’s cultural heritage.

Future Plans

Looking ahead, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve has several plans for the future. One of the main goals is to expand the preserve’s boundaries to protect more of the prairie ecosystem. This will involve working with local land owners to acquire additional land and working with the National Park Service to establish new units of the preserve.

Another future plan is to improve visitor facilities and infrastructure. This will include building new trails, improving existing trails, and constructing new visitor centers and educational facilities. The goal is to make the preserve more accessible to visitors while also protecting the prairie ecosystem.

Overall, the conservation efforts at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve are focused on preserving the unique ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie for future generations to enjoy. By working together with local communities, landowners, and the National Park Service, the preserve is able to protect this important natural and cultural resource.

Field of Flowers North Farm
Click on the picture to check it out

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve embarked on this virtual journey through the beauty and history of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, it’s time to start planning your own unforgettable adventure. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a serene escape, this preserve beckons with open arms.

Tall in the Fall: While any time of year promises its own unique charm, there’s something truly magical about the prairie when autumn arrives. September and October, often referred to as “tall in the fall,” offer the perfect window to experience the Flint Hills adorned in a tapestry of golden hues. The weather is mild, the prairie comes alive with vibrant colors, and it’s the ideal season for hiking and wildlife spotting.

Your Personal Expedition: Whether you’re exploring the rugged trails, gazing at the majestic bison, or immersing yourself in the rich history of the region, every moment spent in the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a chapter in a remarkable story. It’s a place where the past whispers through the tall grasses, and the future is shaped by the commitment to conservation.

So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and prepare for an adventure that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the Kansas prairie. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is not just a destination; it’s an invitation to connect with nature, history, and the enduring spirit of this remarkable landscape. Start planning your visit today and discover the boundless wonders that await in this living tapestry of American heritage.


Frequently Asked Questions About the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve:

What are some interesting facts about Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve?

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is the only remaining tallgrass prairie in North America. It covers over 10,000 acres and is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals. The preserve is located in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, which is known for its rolling hills and unique geology. The prairie is also an important cultural site for Native American tribes who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

What kind of wildlife can be found at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve?

The preserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including bison, coyotes, bobcats, and more than 150 species of birds. Visitors can also see a variety of reptiles and amphibians, such as snakes and turtles. The bison herd is one of the main attractions of the preserve, and visitors can often see them grazing on the prairie.

What is the visitor center like at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve?

The visitor center is located in the historic Spring Hill Ranch house, which was built in 1881. It features exhibits on the history and ecology of the prairie, as well as a bookstore and gift shop. Rangers are available to answer questions and provide information on hiking trails and other activities in the preserve.

How many bison can be seen at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve?

The bison herd at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is managed to maintain a sustainable population. The herd size varies depending on the time of year and other factors, but visitors can usually see several dozen bison grazing on the prairie.

What is the weather like at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve?

The weather at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve can be unpredictable, with hot summers and cold winters. Spring and fall are the best times to visit, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds. Visitors should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and bring appropriate clothing and gear.


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