(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It’s National Bison Day! On October 30, 2013, the Senate passed a resolution that dedicates the first Saturday of November as National Bison Day.
The bison is the Kansas state animal, and there are a few trails that take you close to the mighty creatures that once roamed in the thousands upon thousands across the Kansas prairies.
Our favorite is at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. Read more about it here. Other opportunities to see them include Konza Prairie south of Manhattan, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in the heart of the Flint Hills, and Sandsage Bison Range near Garden City.
Part of the allure of hiking and biking in Kansas is the opportunity to get off the beaten path and explore all that the state has to offer. For the intrepid adventurer, here are three hidden gems that are worth venturing off the interstate to experience.
Kanza Trail at Allegawaho Memorial Park
1. Allegawahoo Memorial Park – Council Grove
Rich in both history and scenery, this 2-mile trail west of Council Grove allows hikers to trek through a site that was occupied by the Kaw Indian Nation until 1872. The trail includes killer views along the upland ridges of the pristine Flint Hills tallgrass prairie, and historical sites including ruins of limestone cabins and the federal agency building for the reservation.
2. Agave Ridge Trail – Cedar Bluff Reservoir
You know that a trail is relatively unknown if the front desk staff at the state park office isn’t even familiar with it. Despite the lack of publicity, we think that the Agave Ridge Trail is one of the top trails in the western part of the state. The chalky white limestone bluffs and steep canyons throughout the trail provide a hiking or riding experience with sweeping views and some dramatic elevation changes. The overall landscape is similar in some ways to the acclaimed Switchgrass Trail at Wilson Lake but with even more solitude (and wildflowers).
3. Camp Alexander – Emporia
The Flint Hills is the ultimate destination for many Kansas hikers and most people are familiar with the excellent hiking opportunities at Konza Prairie and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. For those wanting to venture out and explore more of the Flint Hills, we recommend the 5-miles of trails at Camp Alexander. Bikers will find a mix of terrain, with a few technical sections mixed in with some fast-riding singletrack routes.
These are a few of our favorite “hidden gems”, what trails have you enjoyed that have taken you on the road less traveled?
From 6:30 to 9:00pm on Sunday, June 2, the Kansas Native Plant Society will be hosting its annual wildflower walk. Naturalists will take visitors along the Butterfly Hill Trail, which isn’t normally open to the public, and they will point out and identify the wild variety of native wildflowers that can be found in the prairie. Bring bug spray and comfortable walking shoes and, of course, your camera as you learn more about the native plants of Kansas and marvel at the vistas of the Konza Prairie (which will be highlighted in our Kansas Trails guidebook).
Cost: $10 per person. All proceeds go to Konza Environmental Education Program, whose mission is to: “enhance the understanding of the ecology of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem; increase understanding of the process and value of science; and increase public appreciation for the importance of scientific research as a foundation for sound grassland conservation and management.”
Where: Meet at Konza Prairie Biological Station, 100 Konza Prairie Lane
8 feet – the height grasses can reach in the tallgrass prairie
Author Jonathan Conard with his daughter at the highest point in Kansas
11 physiographic regions
14 mph average wind speed in Dodge City, Kansas’ windiest city
24 state parks
24 endangered species
65 feet – the depth of Milford Lake, the state’s largest lake
300 bison (approximately) in the herd on the Konza Prairie
467 recorded bird species
680 feet above sea level – Verdigris River, the lowest point in the state
4,039 feet above sea level – the height of Mount Sunflower, the highest point in the state