Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where is all the tall grass?
A: It is a common misconception that one will see an entire prairie of six feet tall grasses blowing in the wind at any time of the year. In the spring the grasses will not have reached their full height; they are just beginning to grow. It takes nature an entire season to grow the prairie grasses. Think of "tall in the fall". The tallest grasses grow in the bottomland areas where water is more readily available and the soils are deeper. The grasses on the prairie uplands will generally grow between three and five feet high.
Q: Why is the preserve developing so slowly?
A: As stated before, anything worth doing is worth doing well. The preserve is a developing park and this development is part of the excitement. Each year new and varied interpretive programs, special events, out-reach programs, and educational opportunities are taking place. Planning for the entire development is vital, because one activity will effect another both positively and negatively. For example it would not be wise to allow an activity that will be detrimental to the prairie or the cultural resources. For this reason, sometimes it appears that the preserve is developing slowly. Planning for preservation and education is very important, because once resources are damaged it is too late. Growing at a slower pace allows managers to make wise decisions without harming the resources.
Q: When will the preserve stop cattle from grazing and when will we only see bison on the landscape?
A: Grazing with historic cattle breeds and bison will always remain on the preserve landscape. Cattle and bison have different grazing habits that individually benefit the prairie's health. Bison prefer grasses, while cattle prefer forbs (plants/wildflowers). Grazing with both bison and cattle assists prairie diversity, while giving opportunities to educate the public about the cultural history of the Flint Hills.
Q: How are fire and grazing interconnected with the health of the prairie?
A: The prairie requires both fire and grazing. Fire rids the prairie of woody plants and dead undergrowth that slows the growth of new grasses, while grazing allows seeds to develop in newly disturbed areas. Grazing also stimulates plant growth. Historically bison were the largest (size) grazers on the prairie landscape. After the almost complete slaughter of the bison in an attempt to control the American Indian, the Flint Hills eventually developed into a prime location for fattening cattle before shipment to market. Cattle can gain up to two pounds per day on the lush bluestem grasses of the Flint Hills. The Flint Hills area is so rocky it cannot be easily farmed, so it became useful to large cattle ranchers. Historically it became common practice to ship cattle to the Flint Hills to graze before selling at market. This practice still holds true today. The preserve works with its partners to optimize the amount of grazing on the landscape to promote the full expression of a diverse prairie ecosystem allowing both plant and animal life to flourish. Working together, fire and grazing promote prairie health.
Q: Where can I take my pet for a walk at the preserve?
A: See Operating Hours and Seasons page for more details
Did You Know?
Stephen F. Jones spent the modern equivalent of about $1.9 million building the Spring Hill Ranch complex including the stone fences, but only owned the property for 10 years and occupied the limestone ranch house for 5 1/2 years. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve