The new Baker Wetlands Discovery Center

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Along with the construction around creating the South Lawrence Trafficway, the Baker Wetlands have also been changing – restoration of more land, expansion, and new trails – spearheaded by Roger Boyd and his son Jon Boyd.

Many of the trails listed in our Kansas Trail Guide are still in place, but there’s been an expansion of several more miles of multi-use trail – see the map below.

IMG_2237Another addition is the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center. The eco-friendly building was opened in October 2015, and it’s a large space with panoramic views out over the boardwalk.

The center has exhibits on the importance of the wetlands and how they
were restored and how they’re being taken care of now.

They have spotting scopes, an observatory tower, a research lab, and a classroom space.

Also featured are some family-friendly stations where kids can check out pelts and other animal artifacts. Plus there’s a little gift shop to commemorate your visit.

Around the building are impressive wildlife photos, many of them by the Boyd’s.

If you go:

1365 N. 1250 Road
Lawrence, KS 66046

Trails are open during daylight hours and dogs are allowed on leash.

Discovery Center is open 9am to noon and 1 to 3pm Monday to Saturday and 1 to 3pm on Sunday.

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10 more Christmas gifts for the trail lover in your life

We’ve done it before here and here, and we’re back this year to do it again. There are still 11 days of shopping left until Christmas, and these are our top 10 gifts for the trail lover in your life. Some are ideal for on the trail and some are good for prep and recovery and some are created right here in Kansas. And they’re all awesome!

1. Well, let’s be honest. As the authors, there was really no way we’d be able to start a list with anything but our very own Kansas Trail Guide: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Riding in the Sunflower State.

But in our defense, it’s an ideal gift for any trail lover who might be passing through the Midwest. If you want your copy signed, send us an email at: kansastrailguide [@] gmail [.] com.

$24.95

2. Via the Trail Runner magazine website, honey can help keep you going.

“A Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study found that cyclists who consumed 15 grams (about a tablespoon) of honey, dextrose (a form of sugar) or a placebo containing no carbs every 16-ki- lometers of a 64k effort were able to go faster and produce more power with the honey or dextrose (no significant differences between the honey and dextrose). research suggests consuming sugar blends, such as honey, which contains both fructose and glucose, can be more effective at ramping up performance than sports gels or chews with just a single sugar source.”

You can buy local honey from places like KC Raw Honey, Chautauqua Hills Farm, Glenn’s Bulk Food, and more.


3. Pricey? Yes. Amazing? Also yes. Yeti has some of the best coolers around; we like the Tundra 35. You can stand on them, if the occasion warrants, plus they have up to 3 inches of insulation and are easy to haul around.

They have a 5-year warranty, and according to their website, they’re grizzly proof (though I suppose that’s not really an issue in the Midwest!). Pretty much the last cooler you’ll ever have to buy – not only for its ability to keep your ice from melting, but for its incredible durability.

From $299.99

4. Handmade, natural soaps. You have to (or at least should) clean up after a day or five on the trail, and why not use soap that’s handcrafted in Kansas? Try out Great Cakes Soapworts (you can also find them at the Olathe Farmer’s Market in season) or Foam on the Range.

5. Handheld GPS devices can be wildly helpful. They can also be a tad unwieldy to lug around off the trail. Fix that problem and be ready for adventure at all times with the Garmin fenix 3.

With the Sapphire version, you can get it with a leather strap or in rose gold and white. And with the standard fenix 3, you can get red or black. Oh, and they both do the requisite awesome GPS tasks from tracking your route to being waterproof to telling you altitude, pressure, and direction.

From $499.99.

6. The perfect fit to a stocking and at times ideal for trail prep (just don’t overdo!), a bag of heavenly smelling and heavenly tasting coffee beans. Try PT’s Coffee Lump O’ Coal blend with tastes of chocolate.

$17.50

chamber-header

Image from usa.fabric.cc

7. If you’re a cyclist, you may already have these tools, but it’s pretty likely they don’t come in this nice of a package! Fabric has made its Chamber multi-tools in swish and smooth canister.

You get 13 easy to access tools in a container that won’t snag on anything in your panniers, and they have a fixed head and a ratchet head option.

From $50

8. Perfect for day hikes, which many of the Kansas trails are, Osprey has unveiled its 2016 Skarab 24 .

Along with a built-in 2.5 liter hydration reservoir, it has a hip belt to help spread out the weight, a scratch free pocket perfect for sunglasses or a phone, and an easy access outside “shove-it” pocket that, as it happens, will fit the Kansas Trail Guide!

From $100

9. Another 2015 book from University Press of Kansas is Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds. This large, nearly coffee table size book is full of color images and descriptions for the most devoted plant lover in your life, and you can see how many you can spot along the way.

$39.95.

10. You can give a membership gift to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy that will not only get you (or your loved one) a t-shirt, but you’ll know that the money will be going to making more trails and supporting the upkeep of rail trails already in place.

You can also donate directly to the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy, which does work entirely within Kansas – they helped build the Landon Nature Trail and are working to finish the Flint Hills Nature Trail.

Kansas state parks will be free on 9/26 this year!

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas have come together for Healthy Fun at the Parks Day on Saturday, September 26, 2015. As a part of that, all of the state parks will be free on that day! Normally, a daily use entrance fee is $5.

Plus, they’ve made a coloring book and a map of all 26 state park locations. Coloring books will be available across the state at state park locations, rest stops, and tourism offices, or you may have picked one up at the Kansas State Fair.

So head out to a state park near you on Saturday and enjoy a free visit! If you need some guidance on the trails you can find at the parks, check out our book.

You can learn more about the free day here.Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 4.33.15 PM

Eat, Play, Stay: Shawnee

As the metropolitan mecca of a mostly rural state, Kansas City has a cosmopolitan vibe and attractions aplenty.  But if you’re planning a trip to the area, don’t overlook one of the best reasons to visit the big city – to connect with the wilderness.

While seeking nature in the midst of the largest metro area in the region may not seem the most obvious venture, the Kansas City area boasts some of the best maintained and most loved parks and trails in the state.

One of our Top 10 picks are the hiking and mountain-biking trails at Shawnee Mission Park.  You can spend all morning riding hard through miles of woodland trails in the 1,600 acre park, and also enjoy a 120-acre lake with fishing, a swimming beach, and canoes / paddle boats for rent at the marina.  The trails are exceeding popular (and rightfully so), so it’s worth trying to visit outside of peak weekends.  Reserve a shelter and bring a picnic lunch, or even better get cleaned up and head to the nearby Hereford House in Shawnee for one of the best steaks in the city.  IMG_2014

While you can go just about anywhere in Kansas City for good BBQ, if you are craving a top-end steak the Hereford House (17244 Midland Dr) is our undisputed choice.

After a full day on the trails, there’s nothing better to sate your hunger than the K.C. strip or massive ribeye.  This venerable establishment pays close attention to detail; the steaks are Sterling Silver grade, hand-cut in house and grilled to tender perfection over live coals.

There’s plenty to see and do throughout the area, so if you’re making an overnight trip, why spend your valuable time traversing the extensive highways of K.C. when you can stay right in Shawnee?

IMG_2012One of the closest (and best) hotels just north of the park is the Courtyard by Marriott (17250 Midland Dr, rooms from $119).

The setting doesn’t feel like you are in the middle of the city, and the rooms are spacious, well-appointed, and quite clean.  There’s a small pool if you feel like a swim, and one of our favorite features was the outdoor seating area and fire-pit.

Shawnee is a great place to enjoy the amenities and dining of the city, and also log some miles on a top-quality trail network. Let us know what you think and check out more of our “Eat, Stay, Play” series for tips on the best places to enjoy top trails, outstanding local cuisine, and overnight accommodations throughout the state.

Best Family Friendly Hikes in Kansas

School may be in session, but there’s still plenty of good weather left in the year to get out and enjoy a weekend morning or afternoon on the trail.

We picked our top family-friendly trails based on accessibility – all of them are wide and smooth enough for you to push a stroller on them and most can handle a wheelchair. They’re also shorter – between 1 and 2 miles and a lot of them have interpretive signage along the way to help keep things interesting.
 

 

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Did we miss any? What’s your favorite family-friendly trail in Kansas? Let us know in the comments below.

What’s so special about Kansas: Interview with Dawn Buehler, Kansas Riverkeeper

The biggest misconception about the Kansas River is that it is a dumping ground – a big ditch. People think that it’s too dirty to be on and that it’s not a floatable waterway. …

As a Kansas native, I love this state for many of the reasons other may not. I love that the land can be flat, then rise to the small peaks of the Flint Hills. I love that you can literally see the horizon, therefore see the most beautiful sunsets ever painted by nature’s brush.

As a part of our What’s So Special about Kansas interviews, we reached out to Dawn Buehler, who’s currently the Kansas Riverkeeper for the Friends of the Kaw.

Friends of the Kaw serve the Kansas River, which is the largest prairie watershed in the world, and the organization’s mission is to:

  • Advocate the rehabilitation of the Kaw and its environs – water quality and wildlife habitat
  • Promote compatible public recreational use of the river
  • Encourage the development of adequate public access
  • Cooperate with other individuals, organizations and agencies as appropriate to meet these goals

Kansas Trail Guide: One of your titles at the moment is “Kansas Riverkeeper” for FOK – what goes into being the Kansas Riverkeeper?

friends of the kawDB: The Kansas Riverkeeper is a non-governmental public advocate who serves as the eyes, ears and voice of the Kansas River. The Riverkeeper advocates for the river by acting as leader, scientist, educator, spokesperson and investigator.

Part of the Riverkeeper’s responsibilities includes holding the community responsible for the health of its river. The dumping of any type of waste in our river or streams is illegal. Unfortunately, this activity often goes unreported.

KTG: Our book with University Press of Kansas is all about trails in Kansas for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Many of the trails are in state and county parks. Do you have a favorite park or favorite trail in Kansas? If so, what is it that makes it special for you?

DB: The Kansas River is a National Water Trail – designated in 2012. So my favorite trail is the Kansas River on my kayak.

My second favorite trail to hike is the Konza 7 mile outer loop on the Konza Prairie. Absolutely stunning views of the Flint Hills! I love that when you hike to the top of the hill it feels like you can see to Colorado…most people don’t think of Kansas like that, but it is really quite stunning.

KTG: Do you have a favorite Kansas river or lake?

DB: My favorite Kansas river is THE Kansas River, or the Kaw as known locally. It is a very peaceful and scenic river, and if you ever have the opportunity to camp on the sandbars, you will get a real treat with another of Kansas’ beautiful sunsets!

My favorite lake to go to is Milford Lake, again for the amazing sunsets, but also for the great wildlife, fishing, camping and hiking.

KTG: Why do you feel it’s important that people have access to rivers, in particular the Kaw?

DB: It is very important that Kansans have access to their state. Specifically, the places that are owned by the public should be made accessible to the public, and the Kansas River is one of those places.

All streams in Kansas should be public waterways, but right now only the Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas are public waterways. It is important for people to be able to enjoy their own home state and the beauty of the Kansas River is one that should be shared with all.

KTG: Do you have a favorite stretch of the Kansas River?

DB: My personal favorite stretch is the area between Eudora and DeSoto; however, my reasoning may be different from anyone else.

I grew up on the banks of the Kansas River in the DeSoto river bottoms and this is my home. We regularly were on the river between these two towns fishing, camping on sandbars, riding in our old john boat or riding in a canoe.

I have some of my best memories on this stretch of the river…and it is very scenic as well! One of the most picturesque sections of the river is through the Flint Hills, around Wamego. Stunning really!

KTG: What would you recommend for those who’ve never paddled in Kansas before and would like to try it out?

DB: I recommend that anyone join us on one of our guided float trips. This type of float is designed for the novice boater. We bring the life jacket, boat and paddle and we show you how to use it and how to float the river. It’s the perfect opportunity for someone to learn and be with experienced paddlers.

We do many cleanup floats throughout the season that are free to the public on a first come, first serve basis. On these floats, we clean up trash in the Kansas River as we float and we have a hotdog and marshmallow roast as well. It’s a great time…cleaning up the river and enjoying a beautiful trip down the Kansas River!

KTG: What barriers do you feel need to be overcome to get people out on the trails, whether it’s water or land, in Kansas?

DB: In Kansas, the barriers that we need to overcome are that we need to change the law and allow all people access to all rivers and streams – not just the big three. We need laws that allow all people access to their state.

Other barriers are fear of the unknown and we help with this by offering our guided floats that get folks out on the river in a more secure environment with people that are experienced.

I think the barriers for hiking on trails would be to educate the public about what is available to them.

KTG: What are some of the biggest Kansas misconceptions you think people have?

DB: The biggest misconception about the Kansas River is that it is a dumping ground – a big ditch. People think that it’s too dirty to be on and that it’s not a floatable waterway.

We are working to help the public understand that so much has changed with our river and that it is cleaner than years ago. We still have a lot to do as a state, but we are improving the river. The river is much more than a glance as you drive over the bridge!

KTG: What makes Kansas special for you?

DB: As a Kansas native, I love this state for many of the reasons other may not. I love that the land can be flat, then rise to the small peaks of the Flint Hills. I love that you can literally see the horizon, therefore see the most beautiful sunsets ever painted by nature’s brush.

I love that the people of Kansas are hard working, family based and work hard for their communities. I love that we are fly-over state…and I feel sad for those that have missed its beauty.

Watch fireworks for the 4th of July at a Kansas state park

We’re coming up on a holiday weekend, and while there’s plenty of ways to get out and have fun around Kansas for the 4th, here are some of the state park celebrations with fireworks displays you can attend. *Keep in mind that you generally can’t set off your own fireworks at state parks. So sit back and enjoy the displays the parks put on for you!33-1196545384

Thursday, July 2

Crawford State Park Cookout at 5pm then live music and fireworks over the lake at dusk.

Friday, July 3

Wilson State Park Fireworks display at dusk.

Saturday, July 4

Glen Elder State Park – Fireworks display at dusk. Rain date will be July 5. Glen Elder AmeriCorps staff will be accepting donations of canned food items for the local food pantry.

Prairie Dog State Park – Get up early (7 am) for a 5k run. BBQ from 5 to 7pm, Watermelon feed at 8pm and fireworks display at dusk.

Kanopolis State Park – Fireworks display at 10 p.m. Best seats in the house for the fireworks are from your boat out on the lake. (Rain dates July 5 or July 11)

Sunday, July 5

Cross Timbers State Park – Fireworks at Toronto Point at dusk.

4/25/15 – Free entrance to Kansas State Parks!

Image from Kansas Tourism

That’s right, this Saturday 4/25/15, it’s free entrance to the grand state parks of Kansas!

The state parks have some of the best trails in the state – some of our favorites include Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail at Wilson State Park, Agave Ridge Nature Trail at Cedar Bluff State Park, Elk River Hiking Trail at Elk City State Park, and Hike, Bike, and Bridle Trail at Lake Scott State Park.

Plus, a lot of the visitor’s centers will be having activities and open houses from family-friendly exhibits and activities to guided hikes to 5K runs to fishing tournaments. Check out the events list here – there’s a great range of stuff for outdoor lovers of all ages.kick1

If you happen to go to Cedar Bluff State Park, Lovewell State Park, El Dorado State Park, Elk City State Park, or Perry State Park, give a big thanks to the volunteers out there helping keep the parks clean for the Earth Day Park Clean Up.

The weather forecast looks partly cloudy and warm for Saturday, so get out there and explore!

How to Celebrate Earth Day 2015 in Kansas

Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, it went global in 1990and the now annual event is one of the world’s largest civic events. On April 22, people around the world come together to raise awareness, show support for environmental issues, and to help make our planet cleaner and healthier.

From tree planting to clean ups to family fun, here are some ways you can get out and celebrate the 2015 Earth Day in Kansas (and one in Missouri).

April 18 at Sunset Zoo in Manhattan

Richard Renner & his Recycle Cycle will be there (you may have seen him at the Kansas State Fair) roaming the zoo. Plus there will be kid-friendly activities inside the Nature Exploration Center and story time with staff from the Manhattan Public Library, animal encounter tours led by the zoo’s animal ambassadors, and a zoo-wide scavenger hunt with prizes.

If you go:
Zoo open from 9:30am to 5pm; Earth Day activities from Noon to 4:30pm.
$5 adults, $3 children ages 3-12, 2 & under and FOSZ members free.
2333 Oak Street, Manhattan, KS

April 18 at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park

This turn of the century style family farm has plenty of animals along with flower and vegetable gardens, a fishing pond, and a one-room schoolhouse.

And for Earth Day, they’ll be hosting educational and entertaining programs about recycling, gardening, composting, and Kansas wildlife. There will be crafts, activities and events for the whole family.

If you go:
10am to 2pm
13800 Switzer Road, Overland Park
Free Mon.-Thurs.; $2/person Fri.-Sun. & Holidays/under 2 free

April 18 at Dillon Nature Center in Hutchinson

Snap up some good deals on perennial plants from 7:30 to 11:30am. Bird Watching 101 for families is from 8:30 to 9:30am, and you can learn about what birds to look out for on the trails around the nature center.

From 1-2 pm, The Hutchinson Public Library is hosting a “Wiggly Worms for Bookworms” – a story hour and project for kids 3-10.

If you go:
To register for the bird watching and the story telling (both free, but with limited availability), call 620-663-7411.
3002 E. 30th Avenue, Hutchinson, KS

April 22 at Powell Gardens in Kansas City

Free admission to Powell Gardens and free seedlings, while supplies last, to the early arrivals. They’ll also have a rain barrel raffle, guided tours, storytelling for the kiddos, and a display on up cycling.

If you go:
9am to 5pm
1609 N.W. U.S. Highway 50, Kingsville, MO

April 22 at Overland Park Arboretum in Overland Park

While not technically for Earth Day, it is held on Earth Day. You can become empowered to be a citizen scientist observer. The National Phenology Network will be holding a workshop to give attendees information on plant life cycles using the Arboretum’s trails and plants.

If you go:
Register online, $7 FOTA members, $10 non-members
8909 W 179th Street, Overland Park, KS

April 23 at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita

Party for the Planet – free admission all day and an environmental fair with hands-on activities and exhibits geared for 3rd to 5th graders.

If you go:
Environmental fair is from 9am to 2pm and zoo open from 8:30am to 5pm.
5555 W Zoo Blvd., Wichita, KS

April 25 in Gardner

Gardner Parks and Recreation is hosting an Arbor and Earth Day event with a group cleanup of the Gardner Greenway Corridor – a paved trail that connects Winwood Park and Brookside Park. Then there’s a free barbecue lunch in the park. You can get in on the drawing for trees, t-shirts, and prizes and watch a tree planting demonstration.

RSVP by April 20 – call 913-856-0936.

If you go:
11am to 1pm at Gardener Greenway Corridor

Museum of World Treasures in Old Town Wichita

Museum of World Treasures. Photo by Mark Conard

Museum of World Treasures. Photo by Mark Conard

Where is the one place in the world where you can go to find a shrunken head, a mummy, a T-Rex, a piece of the Berlin Wall, and a pitchfork used in The Wizard of Oz? It’s the Museum of World Treasures in Old Town Wichita.

Ivan

Photo from Museum of World Treasures

Founded in 2001, it moved into its current location in the Farm and Art Market in Old Town in 2003. The exhibits showcase an eclectic and impressive range from millions of years of history with the centerpiece on the first floor – Ivan the T-Rex, and one of the most complete T-Rex discoveries in the world.

You can also check out exhibits on the World Wars, European royalty, Kansas paleontology, the Wild West, and more. You’ll definitely leave feeling more cultured than when you went in.

It’s the perfect place to take your kids – it’s not overly large, so you can see the entire museum without getting overwhelmed, and there’s a kids room with dress-up areas and toys and games. Throughout the museum, there are interactive exhibits perfect for kids.

About half of the treasures on exhibit come from the collection of the founders, Dr. Jon and Lorna Kardatzke, and the mix of artifacts is unexpected and delightful.

We went as a family for a birthday party, and the kids got a brief 20-minute themed tour – they learned about Ivan the dinosaur and cave bears! We also managed to time it with one of their Discovery Days.

The last Saturday of the month from 11am to 3pm, there are activity stations with games, crafts, and artifact exploration. Each month is different, and coming up there’s the St. Patrick’s Day Hats event on March 28 and The Greek Olympics on April 25.

They’ve got events for adults too. The Murder at the Museum: Deadwood Saloon event starts at 7pm on April 25, and you can dress up and play a part in the interactive murder mystery entertainment while enjoying snacks and drinks and exploring the museum. Tickets are $30 per adult or $25 for Museum Members. For $10 per child, bring children over 3 years old for an alternative kids program while the adults solve the crime.

If you go:MOWT

Mon-Sat: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sun: Noon – 5 p.m.

Family Day Pass (2 adults/2 children): $28.50
Adult: $8.95
Senior: $7.95Youth: $6.95
Children 3 and under are FREE!