Last Friday, I found myself without a working computer - again - so I decided that we would take a field trip to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was nearly 3 pm (we made quite a few stops to explore along the way!), so we had little time to enjoy the park. We watched a video, then took a wonderful guided tour and learned quite a lot. Next time I will plan to arrive early so that we can spend the day hiking some of the beautiful prairie trails.

From their website:

Tallgrass prairie once covered 140 million acres of North America. Within a generation the vast majority was developed and plowed under. Today less than 4% remains, mostly here in the Kansas Flint Hills. The preserve protects a nationally significant remnant of the once vast tallgrass prairie and its cultural resources.

Once the hunting grounds of the Kansa and Osage Indians, the preserve's 10,894 acres are home to an astonishing variety of life: over 450 species of plants, 150 kinds of birds, 39 types of reptiles and amphibians, and 31 species of mammals. A cycle of climate, fire, and animal grazing - once buffalo, now cattle - has sustained this ecosystem. Much of the grassland flora and fauna is too subtle to be seen from a passing car, but careful scrutiny reveals the special beauty, wonder, and complexity of the prairie.

Stephen F. Jones House (1881)

Three-story limestone barn

The view across the prairie

Blue Sage (Salvia azurea)

Common Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris)

Gayfeather (Liatris pycnostachya)

Making sparks with flint

"As to scenery (giving my own thoughts and feeling), while I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the Upper Yellowstone, and the like afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure but the prairies and plains, while less stunning at first, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America's characteristic landscape. Even [the prairie's] simplest statistics are sublime." -- Walt Whitman, Specimen Days (1879)


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