Where to see bald eagles in Kansas – 2019

Where to see bald eagles in Kansas – 2019

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Bald eagle pair in Kansas. Photo by Bo Rader.

The return of the bald eagle has been a remarkable success story.  After being pushed towards extinction, the eagle steadily recovered under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.  In Kansas, nesting eagles made a return to the state in 1989 at Clinton Reservoir and have been increasing in numbers ever since.

As the winter cold sets in, eagles push south in search of open water.  In Kansas, mid-January is typically the ideal time to search for eagles along secluded coves of major reservoirs in the eastern half of the state.

For a good hike with a chance to see bald eagles, we recommend the Eagle Ridge Trail at Milford State Park or the Chaplin Nature Center trails by the Arkansas River.  Throughout the month of January there are events throughout the state that celebrate the recovery of this iconic species. Each of the following events offer educational programs and guided viewing tours for the public.

January 5th: The first opportunity for guided eagle viewing is at Tuttle Creek Reservoir with a program and vehicle tour starting at the Manhattan Fire Station (Kimball & Denison Ave) from 9:00 – 12:30.

January 23rd: Kaw Valley Eagles day celebrates the natural history and recovery of the bald eagle in Kansas with a family-friendly event at Billy Mills Middle School in Lawrence from 8:30 – 4:00. There will be presentations, activities for the kids and viewing expeditions.

January 26th: Eagle Days at Milford Lake. The nature center at Milford Lake hosts an annual eagle day event that includes programs and guided bus tours running from 9:00 – 4:00 to view eagles along the lake. Admission to the state park is free for the event and there’s also hot chocolate and popcorn for all!

January 26th: Chaplin Nature Center will offer a short educational program and guided hike along the nature center trails to view eagles along the Arkansas River.  Meet at the visitors center at 10:00 to join the fun.

Kansas First Day Hikes 2019

So it may be cold for the start of 2019, but it should be dry and there are several First Day Hikes throughout the state on January 1. Many of them include snacks or hot chocolate before or after, and they are all pet-friendly, so long as that pet is on a leash.

Here’s where you can go to ring in the new year out on a Kansas trail:

Clinton State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: North Shores Trail

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Warm clothing, good boots, water, trail moderate in difficulty, 2 miles in length


Crawford State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Spider Leg Bridge Trail

Meeting Location: Beach Shelter

Details: Warm clothing, water resistant boots, water, trail moderate in difficulty, 2 miles in length


Cross Timbers State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: Chautauqua Trail

Meeting Location: Chautauqua Hills Trailhead – Toronto Point

Details: 1.5 miles; Dress warm and bring a camera for wildlife pictures. Refreshments will be provided


El Dorado State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: Walnut River Trail

Meeting Location: Walnut River Cabins

Details: Dress warm and bring a camera for wildlife pictures. Easy to moderate 2 mile hike. Hot Chocolate and coffee will be provided.


Wilson State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: Cedar Trail

Meeting Location: Parking Lot across from Cedar Trail Trailhead – Otoe

Details: Dress warm and bring a camera for wildlife pictures. Hike will be 1 mile and easy in difficulty.


Fall River State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: Post Oak Trail

Meeting Location: Quarry Bay Maintenance Shop

Details: Warm clothing, good boots, water, trail easy in difficulty, 3/4 mile in length, Refreshments provided, What you might see winter waterfowl, eagles, tallgrass ID, and other KS wildlife. The hike will also feature the Cross Timbers ecosystem, with oak savannas that are part of gold growth forests.


Green Property – Pratt, KS

Time of Event: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Trail: Green Recreational Trail

Meeting Location: Barn/Shop, Pratt, KS

Details: Water,snacks,appropriate winter clothing,good walking shoes/boots,binoculars,cameras. Hot Cider and Hot Chocolate after Hike


Kanopolis State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Split Boulder Trail – 1.6 miles

Meeting Location: State Park Office

Details: Water,snacks,appropriate winter clothing,good walking shoes/boots, binoculars, cameras. Coffee and hot chocolate provided at the park office before and after the hike


Glen Elder State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 p.m.

Trail: Wacanda Trail

Meeting Location: Church

Details: Water, snacks, appropriate winter clothing, good walking shoes/boots, binoculars, cameras.


Perry State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Nature Trail – 2 1/2 miles

Meeting Location: Lakeview Parking Lot

Details: Dress in layers and dress warmly; warm gloves and head covering; good walking/hiking shoes; walking/hiking poles, if desired; water and snacks provided.


Pomona State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: White Feather, Bunkers Cove & Morningstar Campgrounds – 1.5 to 2 miles

Meeting Location: Pomona State Park Office

Details: Appropriate Clothing, camera and water. May see Eagles on hike. There will be two options for hikes this year led by Pomona State Park Rangers.


Tuttle Creek State Park

Time of Event: 10:30 a.m.

Trail: Western Heritage Trail – 1 to 3.5 miles

Meeting Location: Tuttle Creek State Park Office

Details: Birdwatching hike, bring binoculars, bird ID booklet, spotting scopes, water, hiking shoes, warm clothing.

 

Milford State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: Eagle Ridge Trail

Meeting Location: Group Shelter parking lot

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Easy to moderate in difficulty. Snacks


Meade State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: Eagle Trail – 1.25 miles

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Easy in difficulty. Learn park and area history along the hike.

Sand Hills State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Dune Trail/Prairie Trail 1 mile

Meeting Location: Park Office Cabin

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots


Cheney State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: West Side Trail – 1/2 to 3/4 mile

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Water, snacks, weather appropriate clothing, hiking boots, binoculars and camera.

Flint Hills Nature Trail State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 p.m.

Trail: Flint Hills Nature Trail

Meeting Location: Meet at the Old Depot in Ottawa

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Pet friendly on leash. Hot Chocolate served after the hike!


Elk City State Park

Time of Event: 12:00 p.m.

Trail: Table Mound Hiking Trail

Meeting Location: Overlook Trail Head

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Bring water and snacks, if desired. Pet friendly on leash. Easy to moderate in difficulty


Hillsdale State Park

Time of Event: 10:30 a.m.

Trail: Hidden Springs Nature Trail

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots.

 

Prairie Dog State Park

Time of Event: 9:00 A.M.

Trail: The Nature Trail

Meeting Location: Trail Parking Lot

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots.

Share your photos! #FirstDayHikes and #MyKSStatePark

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park Coming Soon! Interview with Nature Conservancy

We reached out to The Nature Conservancy with some questions about their work to make Little Jerusalem into a protected Kansas park, and here’s what they had to say.

KTG: What’s the latest status of the Little Jerusalem land?

Nature Conservancy: Little Jerusalem is not yet open to the public. In May, legislation to designate the property as the Little Jerusalem Badland State Park passed both chambers and was signed by the governor. The Nature Conservancy will continue to own the property and establish long-term agreement with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) to manage outdoor recreational opportunities in a manner that protects the fragile rocks. As the landowner, The Nature Conservancy will continue to pay local property taxes and maintain management oversight.

We are currently working closely with KDWPT, engineers and educators to develop a public access plan for this unique landscape. The exact nature of all access is yet to be determined but we are still hopeful that the public will be able to enjoy Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in the coming year.

Why do you think people are drawn to this area?

The Nature Conservancy’s western Kansas conservation manager explains this best with a story about his four-year-old daughter Josie.

“We had pulled up to a big old pasture not much different than the places I had been lucky to explore as a kid near our farm in western Ness County. It was an impressive, vast, intact place, but it was on the edge of a wind farm and had a single turbine visible from where we were parked. I asked her if she thought the place looked wild, if it would be worth exploring. She simply said, ‘Well it’s not wild, Dad, there’s a big white windmill in it.’ And then I asked her if she’d want to go with me and explore it and her answer was, “Nope, somebody already has.” What this tells me is that there is a very innate part of us with a sense of wonder and exploration, and that part of us appreciates wild places. I suspect appreciation for nature as it was created is left in just about all of us. For me, at a very basic level, that is what The Nature Conservancy is doing: preserving those places and that sense of wonder, so that future generations will someday experience a wild place. And they are doing it right here, in this part of the state that we call home.”

Will it be open to the public with trails and if so, do you know when, or what the trails might consist of (length, access to hikers/bikers/horse)?

The exact nature of all access is yet to be determined, but it will designed to have as little impact to the rocks as possible.

What makes the area so special and/or of interest to The Nature Conservancy?

Beyond the impressive scenic views, Little Jerusalem provides a unique opportunity to connect people to the wonders of the prairie. These rocks serve as important nesting habitat for ferruginous hawks, cliff swallows, rock wrens and other native wildlife. The property is home to the single largest population of Great Plains wild buckwheat, a plant found in the chalk bluffs prairie of western Kansas and nowhere else in the world.

In addition to modern wildlife, these badlands contain 85-million-year-old fossils of swimming and flying reptiles. The Nature Conservancy’s chief purposes for the site are to, first, protect the pristine natural features and, second, provide access for people to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

What’s the goal of The Nature Conservancy’s work in western Kansas?

Native grasslands are among the most destroyed and least protected ecosystems on Earth. It is estimated that only 3%or fewer of the grasslands that formerly covered the Central Great

Plains are intact. Ongoing encroachment of cropland conversion, energy development, urban sprawl, invasive species, and subdivision continue to degrade and threaten the ecological health of the central Great Plains.

In western Kansas, at least 80% of the native prairie has been converted to some other use. Demonstrating that healthy wildlife populations and successful ranching operations go hand-in-hand is critical to retaining the 20% of the prairie that’s left. Smoky Valley Ranch supports tremendous plant and wildlife diversity while continuing its long history as a working cattle ranch.

The Nature Conservancy manages the 17,290-acre Smoky Valley Ranch as model to demonstrate that healthy ecosystems and profitable agricultural land use can coexist. The Conservancy then works with other landowners in the region to promote land management practices like moderate cattle stocking rates, rotational grazing, and developing drought contingency plans so that conservation can be affected beyond the ranch.

Will the proposed state park plans also include the Smoky Valley Ranch land?

No. The remainder of Smoky Valley Ranch will remain a private, working cattle ranch with visitor access limited to the hiking trails on the western boundary.

Dinner and book signing at Dillon Nature Center 7/10

In connection with HutchRec and Dillon Nature Center, we’re presenting our book talk along with a signing on July 10 in Taylor Cabin. Before the presentation, there will be a dinner at 6:30 — taco salad, rice & black beans, Mexican chocolate cake.

To register for the event (a head count is needed for the food) – follow this link for online registration or download the registration form here to return to HutchRec.

We look forward to seeing you!

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Kansas First Day Hikes 2018

It may be frigid outside (stay safe and warm), but there are a number of first day hikes around the state. Here are the Kansas parks with first-day hikes:

  • Cedar Bluff State Park
  • Cheney State Park
  • Clinton State Park
  • Crawford State Park
  • Cross Timbers State Park
  • El Dorado State Park
  • Elk City State Park
  • Fall River State Park
  • Flint Hills Nature Trail
  • Glen Elder State Park
  • Green Property – Pratt, KS
  • Hillsdale State Park
  • Kanopolis State Park
  • Meade State Park
  • Pawnee Prairie Park
  • Perry State Park
  • Pomona State Park
  • Sand Hills State Park
  • Tuttle Creek State Park
  • Wilson State Park

You can find more information on times and where to meet here at the KDWPT website. Many are pet friendly and have refreshments before or after.

Share your hike photos with #FirstDayHikes and #MyKSStatePark

Eat, Play, Stay: Topeka

Topeka, along the Kansas River, has a number of great trails (including near Cedar Crest, the Governor’s Mansion), interesting history, and an active arts scene. Check out our recommendations of where to eat, what to see, and where to stay while you’re in the capital city.

Eat

Hanover Pancake House (1034 S. Kansas Ave. Open 6:30am to 3pm Sundays, 6:30am to 2:30pm Monday through Saturday).

In business since 1969, this mainstay diner style restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and it was voted Topeka’s Best Place for Breakfast in 2016.

Order up! The Burger Stand

Burger Stand (1601 SW Lane Street, College Hill. Open 11am to 10pm Sunday and 11am to 2am Monday through Saturday).

It’s impossible to pick one best burger here, but I’m a fan of the Smoke (Applewood smoked bacon, gouda cheese & chipotle-cocoa ketchup) and Black & Blue (Blue cheese & granny smith apple chutney).

The restaurant has a couple of dining areas, and they’ve got a pool table, foosball table, and pinball machines. The service was quick, and the food delicious.

Hazel Hill Chocolate (724 S. Kansas Avenue. Open 10am to 7pm. Closed Mondays).

Handmade in small batches on-site, the chocolate treats here are incredible. You can get just one, with truffles costing $2.25, or you can stock up and get them by the box.

Moburt’s (820 S. Kansas Avenue. Open 10am to 6pm. Closed Sundays).

For your own cooking, you can add the gourmet touch with an impressively large range of salts, sugars, and spices — espresso sugar, wild blueberry sugar, Hawaiian black sea salt, gingered Thai sea salt, ground Vietnamese cinnamon, pretty much anything you can think of and many you wouldn’t have thought of before. The staff are great at advising for the best pairings.

Play

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (1515 SE Monroe Street. Open 9am to 5pm daily).

It’s a trailhead for the Landon Nature Trail, and it’s also the place to learn about the historic desegregation decision made in 1954 that helped change schools in America for the better with indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center (4400 SW 10th Ave. Closed Monday, open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, open 1pm to 5pm Sunday. Kids and adults $7.75, seniors $6.75, and under 12 months, free).

In the southwest corner of Gage Park, also home to the Topeka Zoo, is the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center filled with interactive exhibits. The outdoor classroom area has a zipline, music garden, treehouse and more. Inside, there is an art play space, puzzle garden, science gallery, and more with activities for babies, toddlers, and elementary school age kids.

NOTO Arts District (800 and 900 Block of North Kansas Avenue. Keep in mind that many of the shops are closed on Mondays and/or Tuesdays).

The best time to visit is for the First Friday Artwalk, but if you can’t make it then, there’s still plenty to see. A mix of artist studios, antique stores, boutiques and a handful of cafes.

See that statue on top? You can climb practically all the way to it!

Capitol Dome Tour (300 SW 10th Street. Tours are free and run Monday through Friday: 9:15, 10:15, 11:15 a.m., 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, 3:15 p.m. Saturday: 10:15, and 11:15 am., 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, and 3:15 pm. Keep in mind, if it’s too hot, tours will be cancelled).

296 steps and you’ll be at the top of the nation’s only state capitol dome where you can walk outside. The tour starts with checking out some of the capitol building’s many murals, and then you head behind the scenes and up, up, up.

It’s a bit intense if you’re scared of heights, but there are protective railings and a tour guide to put you at ease. And the views from the top, especially on a clear day, are impressive You can also turn back at any point. Read more about it here.

Ted Ensley Gardens (3650 SE West Edge Rd. Open 6am to 11pm).

You can boat, fish, sail, and swim at Lake Shawnee, but there’s more to the area than water activities. Along the west side of the lake are the Ted Ensley Gardens. Trails through the arboretum, a meditation garden, and over a thousand types of flowers and trees, it’s a pleasant, pretty spot.

View from a Capitol Plaza Hotel room

Stay

Capitol Plaza Hotel (1717 SW Topeka Boulevard. Rooms from $109).

Next to the Kansas Expocentre, the Capitol Plaza Hotel is a great place to stay. It’s pet-friendly and non-smoking complete with an indoor pool, hot tub whirlpool, and exercise room.

You get free WiFi throughout the hotel, and there are two restaurants — the Falling Water Grille and Water’s Edge Lounge.

There’s plenty of parking, the beds are comfy, and I must admit that even as an adult, I’m always a fan of glass elevators — this one overlooks the garden atrium.

Part of the Great Mural Wall of Topeka near the Capitol Plaza Hotel in summer 2016

It’s also a few minutes walk from the Great Wall of Topeka-Mural along SW Western.

Ramada Inn Downtown (420 SE 6th Avenue. Rooms from $84).

If you want to easily access history, stay at the Ramada Inn Downtown as it has the in-house Holley Museum of Military History. Along with this unexpected amenity, the hotel has three restaurants: Madison Street Diner, Maddie’s Cocktail Lounge, and Uncle Bo’s Bar, which has live bands every Friday and Saturday night.

Along with the seasonal outdoor pool, there’s an indoor pool and hot tub. Each room has a microwave and mini-fridge, and they have a free hot and tasty breakfast. You get free WiFi, and in the fitness center, you can take a yoga class.

Celebrate Earth Day in Kansas

Earth Day is on April 22, and while we think everyone should care about the earth everyday, it’s special to get together to support the planet. Here are a few places across Kansas where you can celebrate Earth Day from family-friendly activities to recycling.

HutchinsonDillon Nature Center

Tall Tales and Terrific Trees – April 23 from 1 to 2pm – Families with children ages 3-10 years old: Join us and Amy Johnson from the Hutchinson Public library as she reads tree-rific tree tales on the hills in the Playscape. Then children will make a leaf craft and families can explore the trails in search of trees and seeds. Free!

Lawrence – South Park

The 17th Annual Earth Day Parade & Celebration on Saturday, April 22. Parade at 11am and Celebration in South Park from 11:30am to 4pm with exhibits, food, and kid’s activities.

Manhattan Sunset Zoo

Party for the Planet on Saturday, April 22 from noon to 4:30pm. $5 for adults, $3 children (2 and under free). Family friendly games and events including a zoo-wide scavenger hunt with prizes.

Overland Park InterUrban Art House

Clothing & Textile Recycling Event on Saturday, April 22 from 9am to 2pm, you can drop off clothing and textiles to be reused or repurposed. If it’s fabric, you can bring it here and it will be donated and kept out of the landfill.

Pittsburg – Southeast Kansas Recycling Center

Free paper shredding on April 22. Get 25 pounds of documents shredded for free. They also take plastic bags, glass, plastic, e-waste, metal, and more.

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge – Visitor’s Center

On Saturday, April 22 from 9am to 1pm, there will be guided nature walks, presentations on pollinators, tours of the butterfly garden, and a lunch provided by Friends of Quivira. Free!