Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

by Sandra Merville Hart

The 10,894 acres of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills of Kansas are almost all that’s left in the United States of tall grass prairies.

Only 4% of prairie remains

More than 400,000 square miles of prairie existed fifty years ago. Only 4% remain. The rest have been plowed up or destroyed to build malls, roads, and cities. This Kansas national preserve wants to rescue tall grass prairies.

prairie-678495_960_720Tall grass can grow as tall as seven feet

Over seventy species of grasses grow in the Flint Hills. Many of them reach full height — four to seven feet — in September and October.

Several Native American tribes including the Pawnee, the Osage, the Wichita, and the Kansa hunted in this area.

Controlled fires burn away old growth

Every spring, controlled fires burn away the old growth to give the tall grass plants better sunlight and moisture. The fires actually help the prairie grass to grow stronger.

Bison roam the prairie again

An estimated 30 to 60 million bison once roamed North America. Less than 1,000 remained by 1890. Thankfully, that number has grown to between 400,000 and 500,000 today.

Bison, also called American buffalo, live at Tallgrass Prairie. The first bison to be born there was in 2010. Before 2010, the last birth here took place nearly 150 years ago.

Watch the bison graze but keep your distance. Bison can be dangerous.

Things to do at the preserve

While at the national preserve, visit the Visitor Center and Lower Fox Creek School District #14. Tour the Spring Hill Ranch House and Spring Hill Ranch Barn. Call ahead to reserve a spot on a ranger-led bus tour.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a peaceful area located in the beautiful state of Kansas. Ask your parents if they can plan a visit when you are in the area.

Sources:

Flynn, Sarah Wassner. National Geographic Kids: National Parks Guide U.S.A., National Geographic Society, 2012.

McHugh, Erin. National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2012.

“Tallgrass Prairie,” National Park Service, 2016/01/06 http://www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm.

 

 

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