• The setting sun over the Flint Hills casts shadows across the wide expanse of tallgrass prairie.

    Tallgrass Prairie

    National Preserve Kansas

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  • Reminder, Bison Are Wild Animals

    Windmill Pasture is home to the bison herd. They have been quite active in recent weeks. Please stay on the trails and use caution in their vicinity. Do not come in close contact with the bison. Allow at least 100 yards between you and the herd. More »

  • Handicap Parking Available at Visitor Center

    For the next several months, the handicap parking area by the barn is closed until the barn construction project is complete. Handicap parking is available at the Visitor Center.

Natural Features at the Preserve

The extent of the vast prairie interior of North America

courtesy of Inland Sea Productions


Prairie historically covered 400,000 square miles of North America. This sea of grass stretched from the Rocky Mountains to east of the Mississippi River, from Saskatchewan, south into Texas. It was the continent’s largest continuous ecosystem supporting an enormous quantity of plants and animals. Prairie began appearing in the mid-continent from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago and has developed into one of the most complicated ecosystems in the world, surpassed only by the rain forests of Brazil.

Prairies exist in areas too wet for desert and too dry for forests. Today, the most fertile and well-watered region, the tallgrass prairie, has been reduced to less than 4% of its original area. This makes it one of the rarest and most endangered ecosystems in the world.

Prairies respond to their environment, which includes soil type, water availability, and natural processes such as grazing and fire. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is an eastern prairie. Eastern prairies are wetter and support Indian grass, switch grass, little bluestem and big bluestem grasses growing to heights of up to eight feet tall!

Eighty percent of the foliage is indeed made up of grasses, from 40 to 60 different species. The other twenty percent of the primary vegetation is made up of over three hundred species of forbs or flowers.

 

Did You Know?

Grazing cattle at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Cattle can gain up to 2 pounds per day grazing on the prairie grasses of the Flint Hills. The calcium found in the limestone erodes into the soil, making the prairie plants more nutritious for grazing animals. Cattle grazing is still the main agricultural use of the Flint Hills today.