Located in the majestic Flint Hills is one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas—the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. A preserve unlike any other in the United States, Tallgrass Prairie embodies not only a unique ecosystem, but a historic record of the impact people have had on the land, as centuries of agriculture and urban expansion have wiped out most of the 140 million acres of tallgrass that used to define the landscape of this region. The 10,894 acres of tallgrass on the preserve today is merely 4% of what used to be abundant here.
In an effort to save this culturally and ecologically significant vegetation, the Nature Conservancy established the preserve in 1996, hoping to allow tourists to enjoy this magnificent natural relic, while protecting it for generations to come. In 2009, The Nature Conservancy brought in a small herd of bison to live in the Preserve, restoring yet another species impacted by our ancestors. Since then, the bison have thrived and grown in number, with the third generation of bison calves being born this past spring. The bison are a popular fixture in the preserve, as they are the largest land animal in North America today. Also on the preserve are a historic ranch house, barn, and schoolhouse, complete with self-guided tours.
As the United States’ second newest national preserve to be established, Tallgrass Prairie is in the developmental stage, with its visitor center and other accommodations still under construction. However, you can hike any of the three trails in the preserve: the Southwind Nature Trail, the Bottomland Trial, and the Fox Creek Trail. Each trail supplies hikers with grand views of the vast tallgrass, Flint Mountains and Fox Creek.
During the summer months group tours are also available, in which visitors can learn about many of the 700+ species of plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that call Tallgrass Prairie home. A great day trip from Kansas City!