Video Postcard : Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

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Tallgrass Prairie; Jeremy Sullivan photo.
jersu's picture

A 3 minute video postcard from a recent visit to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas. I had the privilege of visiting this unit of the parks recently. Park interpreters led a tour of the historic house and barn, followed later by a bus tour of the prairie. I happened to be on the very last bus tour of the season, the next one won't be until April.

The park itself is pretty remote. I was traveling through Wichita and decided to take the side trip. The park is approximately 90 miles (one-way) from Wichita. Considering the drive consumed 3 hours of my time (round trip), I am glad I made the trip, it was worth it to see the area. Kansas isn't nearly as flat as I had thought it would be.

Credits --
Photography, Edits : Jeremy Sullivan

Music : John Fleagle, "Da Day Dawn",

Special Thanks :
- Julie Miller
- Interpreters of the Tallgrass Prairie



I note that you drew a different interpreter on your bus tour than I did. I hope the amplification was better. I actually did meet your interpreter at the visitor center/gift shop area, and belive he had experience at several other parks.

Did you ask about when the TGPNP would eventually manage bison instead of cattle, and if and when that happens how many head of bison the national preserve would sustain? I noted that you took close-ups of the flint of the Flint Hills. Very nice video.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

The last time I checked, a small herd of 25-30 bison was being managed for experimental purposes on a 1,200-acre tract west of the historic ranch house. Whether a large bison herd will ever again roam the preserve is certainly open to question. There seems to be no scientific evidence that bison would be better for the land than cattle. What seems more important is how much grazing of any kind is permitted where and when. The preserve is probably too small to accommodate both bison and cattle in large numbers.

The question of bison grazing did come up. As I recall, we were told that the eventual plan is to replace the cattle grazing with bison grazing. I don't remember if a specific number was given though. I didn't touch on it in the video, but part of the story at the Tallgrass Prairie is that it is a co-managed unit, with the Nature Conservancy playing a tremendously big role in the prairie management. In fact, you can hear the interpreter near the end of the video talking about an entity "paying taxes" on the land -- he's referring to the Nature Conservancy. It would be ultimately up to the Nature Conservancy (I believe), working in partnership with the NPS, to bring the bison back to this range.

Kansas isn't nearly as flat as I had thought it would be.

You were thinking of western Kansas. I spent my early childhood in eastern Kansas (not a fact I readily admit), and we had places like Echo Cliff and Burnett's Mound and Buffalo Hill. Nothing spectacular when compared to Crater Lake, Lava Beds, or Mount Shasta mind you. But not as flat as many assume. Now the drive west on I-70 to past Salina to That's flat! Did you know William Steele ("father" of Crater Lake) was from Kansas? As a school boy in Kansas he unwrapped a sandwich wrapped in newspaper to find an article on Crater Lake, or so the legend goes. He dreamed of visiting there, and many years later was superintendent of the park. Parallels my story. Except I wasn't superintendent. Yet. Ha.