October 16, 2010

Visiting the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Flint Hills, Kansas

Yesterday, we awoke to a glorious sunrise on Tuttle Creek Lake near Manhattan, KS. We departed our campsite for the 90 minute drive down to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The 10,800 acre preserve is unique in the National Park Service in that the land is actually owned by The Nature Conservancy, but they turned over management of the area to the National Park Service. It is the only National Park site dedicated to preserving this once vast ecological landscape.

Sunrise mist on Tuttle Creek Lake
We did an 8-mile loop trail across the prairie with temperatures exceeding 80 degrees F. Amazing how hot it was for mid-October. A true indian summer. I am going to do a full write up of the hike on the Hikemaster's Trail Description site, so look for it there in a day or two.

Last year, the National Park Service brought in 14 bison from Wind Cave National Park to restore the natural grazing of the prairie. It is the first time in over 130 years that bison grazed this land. They also burn the site every 3-4 years to mimic the natural grass fires that were so common in this land of lightning and heat.

We once again had a close encounter with the 14 bison. But, they are young'ins. They are only half grown, as they will be the basis for a growing herd on the prairies of Kansas.

A lone cottonwood struggles for survival in the open prairie

In the distance, you can see the bottomland of the photo above, where water flows and forests grow. Due to the rocky soils of the Flint Hills, only the deeper soils of the drainages could support farming, which is why this prairie remains intact on the uplands.

Hilina and Linda mosey along the prairie

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