Hundreds of years ago, much of the plains area of the North American continent was covered by tall grass.

At one point, it was estimated to have reached over 170 million square acres spread from what is now the Midwest to Canada. It’s hard to imagine just how much land that might be, but it’s the size of Texas. 

Today, only about 4% of that tallgrass survives. Thankfully, it’s mostly under the protection of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

A Little Bit of History

Though generations of people have lived in this area, the national preserve only came about relatively recently. In 1994, the land was designated as a target of a new public-private partnership between the National Parks Service and the National Parks Trust. And in 1996, President Bill Clinton designated the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. 

Today, the Nature Conservatory co-owns the preserve with the National Park Service. This makes it a unique part of the parks system in more ways than one!

Activities at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

There’s plenty to do and see at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. 

Backcountry Hiking

One of the really special features of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is it’s home to a pack of bison. You can get a great look at these animals by exploring a few of the more rugged backcountry hiking trails

Windmill Pasture is where you’ll find the bison herd. You can reach it through the Scenic Overlook Trail and the Davis Trail. It’s advised to not engage the bison and keep a safe distance while they are grazing in their natural habitat. 

In total, there are about 40 miles of hiking trails to explore. 

Nature Trails

The nature trails are very popular. Since they are shorter than your standard hiking trails, they’re more accessible to many visitors. These trails are also dog-friendly.

The Southwind Nature Trail and the Bottomland Nature Trail are two of the most popular options. Both of these trails are open 24 hours a day.

Guided Tours

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••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• ✅Title: "The School on the Prairie" Date: 8/11/14 Location: Lower Fox Creek School, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong, Kansas (opened 1884) •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 💬: "It seemed…a lonely little house of scholarship with its playground worn so bare… But that humble little school had a dignity of a fixed and far off purpose… It was the outpost of civilization… driving the wilderness farther to the west. It was life preparing wistfully for the future." – James Rooney, Journey from Ignorant Ridge, 1976 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 📷Settings: ✳️Canon 5d Mk III✴️Canon 50-500mm f4,@287mm, ISO 100, 1/10 sec exposure, f10 Aperture, Manual mode. Lightroom adjustments •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #Kansas #kansasphotos #kansasflinthills #igkansas #lowerfalls #tallgrassprairienationalpreserve #sunset #duskypink

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In April through October, there’s a free 60-90 minute guided bus tour. These are handicap accessible, just call ahead of time to confirm. This tour will drive along the tallgrass, and a ranger will provide you with information along the way. Because they don’t allow driving inside the preserve, this is a great way to see more.

On the grounds, there are also a few historic buildings from The Spring Hill Farm and Ranch. It was first built in the late 1870s and now is on the register of National Historic Places. You can choose to take a guided tour with a ranger or explore these on your own too.

Getting There

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is easy to visit. Since it’s right off Interstate 35, it can make for a stopover point during an extended road trip on the highway which runs from San Antonio to Minneapolis. 

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is under 90 minutes from Wichita, Kansas and about 2 hours from Kansas City, Missouri.