Safety

bison bulls clashing
Bison bulls clash during the fall rutting season.

NPS Photo - Wind Cave National Park

Emergencies: dial 911

Safety Essentials

  • Plan ahead. Tell a friend/ranger where you're going and when you plan to return.
  • Cell phone for emergencies.
  • Adequate clothing (rain jacket and warm layers).
  • Water; at least 20 oz (.6 L)
  • Sturdy footwear.
  • Bring a Map. Cell service can be spotty in areas. Stone markers have stationary maps at most trail intersections. Paper maps are available at the Visitor Center.
  • When in doubt, ask a ranger first.
 

Traveling

Watch out for traffic, pedestrians, and road conditions in the Flint Hills. Wildlife cross the road frequently. Use caution navigating the curves and blind hills, especially at night. Heavy semi-trucks and slow farm equipment are not uncommon. 

The Visitor Center is 3 miles north of Strong City via KS-177, a 60 mph highway with no shoulder. KS-177 has light to moderate traffic with semi-trucks.

  • Wear visual safety gear.
  • Avoid stopping on the shoulder.

Downtown Strong City is 1 mile from the Bottomland Nature Trail parking area. The underpass from the west end of Sixth Street and Pine Street provides safer travel. County road 227 is a 30 mph gravel road with light, mostly local traffic.

  • Go north to the trail underpass.
  • After crossing under the highway, turn left on country road 227.
  • Bottomland Trail parking area with comfort station is visible on right.

The Visitor Center is off K-177. The 60 mph highway has no shoulder, sloped drainage, blind hills, and infrequent driveways. Visitors are discouraged from parking or walking along the highway. K-177 recieves moderate semi traffic through the day and low traffic at night.

 

Hiking Trails

Trails are open 24/7. Stay on established trails when possible. The trails remain the clearest spot to see wildlife and reduce negative wildlife encounters. Know the trail difficulty before setting out. Tall vegetation and rocky landscape make off-trail ventures hazardous. Nature trails cover the bottomlands close to parking areas. Backcountry trails go further into the uplands. Practice Leave No Trace principles.

Wildfires naturally occur on the Great Plains throughout the year. Prescribed burns in the Flint Hills are common in the early spring and fall. Smoke may affect the air quality for several miles. 

Preserve employees close all nearby trails before a prescribed burn on the property. Due to the flame speed, fuels, and weather, fires may spread faster than visitors can safely respond. Please obey all closure signs.

Pets are permitted around the visitor center, historic ranch area, and Nature Trails.

Read more pet tips while visiting to the preserve.

  • Avoid Wildlife Encounters: to protect your pets, cattle, and park wildlife, pets are not permitted in the backcountry. Ticks, chiggers, and snakes are common in high grass during warm weather.
  • 6-foot Leash at All Times: Poison ivy naturally grows on the preserve close to some trails. Leashes help keep pets on trails. 
  • Pick up Poop and Dispose Appropriately: poop from canines and other carnivores can alert wildlife to unsafe predator areas. And poop is aweful for others to step in.
  • Do not Leave Pets Unattended or tied off to any object: your pet is YOUR responsibility, whether you are present or not. Bring someone with you to help and share the prairie experience. 

Leaves of three, let it be! Poison ivy is found throughout the preserve. It is not an invasive exotic plant, but rather a native component of the plant community. It thrives in areas of disturbance, such as along the creeks and shaded groves. Berries from the plant are a highly nutritious food for birds and animals. The vine provides cover and protects the soil from erosion.

As a native plant, poison ivy is protected in most places in the park. We do manage poison ivy along the trails. Please use caution while in the park and keep an eye on your children and pets.

Contact with poison ivy: 

  • Use soap and water within 30 minutes.
  • Gently wash off the resin from your skin or pet's fur.
  • Promptly wash clothes with detergent.
  • If a rash develops, consult your doctor.
  • Water
  • Loose Clothing
  • Hat/shade
  • Sturdy Footwear
  • Sunscreen
  • Cell phone
  • Trail Map
  • Insect Repellent
  • Check for ticks
  • Avoid poison ivy

Weather can be unpredictable on the Great Plains. The prairie provides little cover from the elements. Thunderstorms and high winds are not uncommon. Most grass trails become slippery with mud after a short rain. Tornados and wild fires are rare, but dangerous in the open grassland.

Check our current weather for safety measures you may take while visiting to the preserve.

  • Water
  • Layered Clothing
  • Hat / face covering
  • Gloves
  • Sturdy Footwear
  • Sunscreen
  • Cell phone
  • Trail Map
 

Wildlife

Animals on the preserve are wild and unpredictable. Don't let the large bison distract you. The preserve thrives with several smaller creatures. Ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes actively look for a summer meal. Check out the Animal Lists found at the preserve.

  • Do not harrass wildlife. No critters like people disturbing their day. Take a picture from a safe distance and let it be.

  • Do not feed the wildlife. Feeding wild animals may lead to dependence on handouts and failure to survive the winter. Their survival depends on on staying wild.

  • Do not kill any wildlife. All wildlife on the preserve are protected. 

The preserve's bison occupy Windmill Pasture and sometimes West Traps Pasture. Signs are posted on all trail gates entering bison areas. Bison often appear docile but will attack when threatened. Bison become more aggressive in the spring birthing and the fall breeding seasons.

  • Keep 125 yards distance when hiking. Do not attempt close contact or petting the bison. Despite their size, bison are strong and can run up to 35 mph. If necessary, navigate off-trail around the bison. If your presence causes a bison to move, you are too close.

  • Do not run through the bison pasture. Movement sometimes excites the animals and may trigger a chase instinct.

  • Bison moods have warning signs. The bison's tail position is like a weathervane. A tail hanging loosely indicates the animal is relaxed. If partially raised, the bison is alert. The bison is excited with a horizontal tail. A tail raised upward is a warning; the bison is in a combative posture and may be ready to charge. Never turn your back on a bison!
  • Pets are not allowed in bison areas. Animal interactions are too unpredictable. Hikers with pets may be able to view bison at a distance on the Southwind Nature Trail or from the Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse parking area.

A few venomous snakes live on the preserve including the massasauga rattlesnake and copperhead. Snakes are most active in the warm summer between April and October. On occasion, snakes have been seen inside the historic buildings.

  • Watch where you walk.
  • Only put your hands where you can see.
  • Be cautious around rock walls, fences, and in tall grass.
  • Take pictures. Share any sightings with staff members around the buildings.

Bites

  • Photograph what bit you! Without a photo, give a detailed description.
  • Keep calm and try not to move. Moving can spread the venom through the bloodstream faster.
  • Loosen clothing, accessories or jewelry. Venom may cause swelling.
  • Lower the bite below the heart.
  • Cover the bite with a clean dry dressing.
  • Call 911 and get help.
  • NO Torniquets. NO Cutting the wound. NO Ice. NO snake-catching.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Focus Medica (Nov 2021)

Ticks & chiggers are mostly active late spring to early fall on the prairie. Tick-borne diseases are an increasing public health concern across the region. To limit your exposure:

  • Walk in the middle of trails away from tall vegetation
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to spot
  • Tuck pants into socks
  • Spray bug repellent on shoes and clothing
  • Check yourself (and pets) carefully after walks

Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last updated: April 9, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

2480B KS Hwy 177
Strong City , KS 66869

Phone:

620 273-8494 x270

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