CHASE COUNTY — It’s isn’t possible to be physically transported back in time, but the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve can give visitors an idea what this area and a good portion of this country looked like before the start of the 20th century.
The preserve, located north of Strong City in Chase County, is one of five national parks located in Kansas and was created in the mid-1990s. According to the National Park Service website devoted to the preserve, tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres in North America, but now less than 4 percent of that remains, mostly in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Heather Brown, chief of interpretation at Tallgrass Preserve, said the best place for newcomers to start is at the Visitor Center, located three miles north of Strong City on K-177 highway.
“We’ll give them a trail map and help orient them to the site,” Brown said. “We can help them decide what they want to see and what they want to do.”
There are numerous options, starting with more than 40 miles of hiking and natural trails. Those trails are open 24 hours with no permit required, though camping and biking are not allowed.
“The main season is May through October but there are different things to see through each season,” Brown said. “If you want to see the wildflowers then you’ll want to visit from mid to late May. The tall grass happens in the fall — in September and October the grasses are in their full glory.
“Visitors will come out and go hiking in the prairie throughout the year. It’s beautiful in all seasons. We’re open year-round.”
Visitors can take a guided bus tour of the prairie. Those run daily from the last Saturday in April to the last Sunday in October. The tours are free but it is recommended that advance reservations be made.
There is catch-and-release fishing at three preserve ponds, with a valid state fishing license required for Kansas residents ages 16 through 74.
“If visitors only have a couple of hours, they could go through the historic ranch building and take a short hike through the prairie,” Brown said. “We have a bison herd and there are prairie bus tours.
“There are more opportunities available on the weekend but it is best to call for a reservation if you want to do the bus tour. We do walk-ins, but it is best to call ahead and make a reservation.”