A Handbook for Managers of Cultural Landscapes with Natural Resource Values Conservation Study Institute
Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse and prairie grasses, photo courtesy of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse and prairie grasses, photo courtesy of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve



The Issue


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Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse and prairie grasses, photo courtesy of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
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Flint Hills, Chase County, Kansas

Contact: Superintendent

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
P.O. Box 585, 226 Broadway
Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845

photo courtesy of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Ranch Headquarters

Introduction to the Site as a Cultural Landscape: Recognizing Cultural and Natural Resource Values

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was established in 1996 "to preserve, protect, and interpret for the public an example of tallgrass prairie ecosystem…and to preserve and interpret for the public the historic and cultural values represented on the Spring Hill Ranch." The preserve encompasses 10,894 acres in the heart of the Flint Hills region of Chase County, Kansas, where visitors can experience the quiet and solitude of the prairie landscape and understand the role that landscape played in the complex history of human activity. In 1997, the entire property was listed as a national historic landmark for its association with both the cattlemen's empire of the late nineteenth century and the transition from the open range to the enclosed holdings of the large cattle companies in the 1880s. This cultural landscape includes a number of buildings related to the ranching era—the ranch headquarters, stone fence lines, and water features—as well as less prominent habitation sites from occupation by Native American and European American settlers.

photo courtesy of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Flint Hills Pasture

Human activity in the Kansas Flint Hills can be traced back 10,000 years, first to a culture of hunter-gatherers, and later to native people (possibly Wichita, Kansa, Osage, and Pawnee) who developed ceramic technologies, domesticated plants, and hunted bison. Following the Civil War, settlers began to pour into the Flint Hills region, which led to a number of treaties and relocations of native people. With the coming of the railroad, bison disappeared and farmers began to raise crops and graze cattle, often constructing limestone walls as fencing, which remains a feature of the preserve's landscape today. A number of ranchers have owned the property during the last 130 years; they have seen ranching in the Flint Hills mature from the unfenced grazing practices of the open range to small herds raised in enclosed pastures. The Spring Hill Ranch headquarters and one-room limestone Lower Fox Creek schoolhouse are structural features of the preserve's ranching history. The public has also identified several preserve viewsheds—rolling hills, floodplain, and vast open landscape with few human intrusions—as important resources.

The preserve's rolling grasslands also comprise an important natural landscape. Two major creeks cross the property, and numerous springs, seeps, and stock ponds dot the landscape. The preserve protects a significant example of tallgrass prairie, one of the rarest of North America's major ecosystems. Today, less than four percent remains of what most authorities believe was the dominant vegetation type in the eastern third of the Great Plains. The rarity of this remnant ecosystem makes the preserve an important storehouse for genetic diversity.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Gettysburg National Military Park

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

The Presidio:
Crissy Field

The Presidio:
Presidio Forest

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Printable PDF Version of this Case Study

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