The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis. Based on guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, access to the park is as follows:
Open: All hiking trails
Closed: Visitor Center and historic buildings
While the listed areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased, and services may be limited. When recreating, please follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, and avoid crowding and high-risk outdoor activities.
The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.Please be aware of current conditions when making plans to visit the preserve. Historic buildings will reopen in phases. Check out the Operating Hours and Seasons page.
Bison - Windmill Pasture is home to the preserve's bison herd. You are welcome to hike in this area, but please stay on the trails and use caution in their vicinity. Do not attempt to pet or come in close contact with the bison. If the bison are on the trail, either hike far around the herd in the pasture or turn around. It is best to be proactive and not allow yourself to be placed in a dangerous situation. These are wild animals and will charge or defend themselves when feeling threatened. If your presence makes the animals move in any way or causes them to get up, you are too close. Do not run in the bison pasture as this movement sometimes excites the animals and may cause them to chase or charge.
Allow at least 100 yards between you and the herd. A tour map is available on site or by emailing us. The Davis Trail and lower portion of the Prairie Fire Loop Trail can be used to reach the Scenic Overlook without hiking through the bison pasture. Sometimes West Traps pasture (Davis Trail) is closed to allow for bison management practices. It is always best to check out the Alerts part of our website, as this is where the most current information is posted.
Visitor Opportunities - Self-guiding tours of the historic ranch building complex grounds are available daily via signage and cell phone tour. Tour numbers are posted on waysides around the historic buildings. The Lower Fox Creek one-room schoolhouse can be visited by either hiking the Southwind Nature Trail or by driving to the location. School is open from June through December, but can be viewed through the windows in all seasons. Reopening of the buildings will be gradual due to COVID-19 phase guidelines.
Daily Bus Tours have been cancelled through June 30, 2020 due to the inability to properly social distance within an enclosed vehicle. Read the press release at the link above. A podcast has been posted of a bus tour and can be located here.
As you travel to or from the park, a nice scenic drive along the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway on highway K-177 is also an option to see the prairie landscape from your car. There is a pull over scenic overlook area south of Cottonwood Falls with interpretive waysides that explain the tallgrass prairie. The byway takes you through the heart of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem of the Kansas Flint Hills.
Trails - Walking or touring the grounds of the historic structures remains open 24 hours and offers great opportunities for night sky viewing. Hiking or foot access along the over 40 miles of trails is the only means of access at this time. The historic routes that make up the trail system follow the old ranch roads, of which none were developed or designated for accessibility. However, some of the trails are a little easier than others to traverse.
The Bottomland Nature Trail has the most gentle of slopes found in the preserve. Inquire at the Visitor Center for trail conditions to self-evaluate individual motorized devices such as wheelchair or electric carts to address accessibility needs, understanding that none of the trails/gravel roads meet ADA requirements at this time.
Last updated: May 11, 2020