Tallgrass Prairie Picture Directory

Tallgrass Prairie Picture Directory for the National Preserve located near Emporia, Kansas. Where is it located? What is it? What will you find there? Click on links below. If you are going to use any of the pictures from this directory, please credit seecove.com or link to it. Thank you.

Where is the Tallgrass Prairie Located?

What is the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve?

What Will You Find at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve?

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

All Pictures © 2009 Marina Rundell

VISITING TALLGRASS PRAIRIE
by Marina Rundell
December 2009

It is mid morning and you first arrive to park at a gravel parking lot. Then you walk up the gravel road to the barn where you are greeted by a Ranger behind a podium. You quietly ask yourself what that Ranger does during his shift as he stands behind the podium. Your question is answered when you find yourself going to him several times with questions and how helpful he is. He gives you a brochure showing a map of the walking paths and where they lead and will even give a small talk about the three major grasses found in the Preserve. You can probably tell by now that there weren't that many people there, only me and my sons.

If you have children, they will immediately be drawn to the hands-on activities, especially the different animal skins and shells they're allowed to touch. From there you'll find farming tools and equipment and a stairway that leads down to a basement where the animals were once housed. You feel, and smell, the life that was once there. Again, if you have kids, they will discover the stacks of hay and will be drawn to climbing them. I ask them not to and they insist so I tell them to go make sure this is all right with the Ranger so they do and they get permission.

As the kids enjoy themselves, I think how one day this will no longer be allowed where ropes will have signs saying "Do Not Touch" or "Do Not Climb" and the like, such as when one day the bathroom facilities of porta-potties will be replaced with a "normal" bathroom and visitor center. One day, the basement will even be closed to the public. Such things happen eventually.

After a visit to the barn, you get motivated to walk the path and enjoy the tallgrasses. My sons wander off into the tallgrasses and play a game of hide and seek or tag, or the like as I enjoy the scenery. Again, one day there'll be signs saying not to go off the path, but for now the grasses are getting trampled over. A compromise would be to allow a small patch where children can go and play in the grasses and the rest can be roped off, if that's even possible. Signs advertising "Snakes Everywhere" may be enough to keep visitors on the path.

A few trucks rumble off to go do whatever it is they need to do. We make it to the top of the hill with a few stops to look at an unidentified spider and caterpillar. At first you might have thought that you would walk the entire way to the school house, for example, but realize, realistically, that it would be better to simply take the bus tour, so you head back. The kids become restless and say they want to leave, but I tell them I drove all this way so I'm going to look at everything and wait for the next bus tour.

The barn Ranger has changed as a new shift must have started and I'm told that the noontime tour has been stopped due to staff cuts so we must wait for the 3 o'clock tour. Again, the kids repeat that they're ready to leave. I tell them to go to the car and eat whatever snacks are in there while I go visit the mansion. This works for them and I get their restlessness delayed.

First, I look inside the building that once housed water from a spring for the barn and house. Today, that spring is dry. Then turning around, I realize how massive the barn is when I read about it at a sign outside. For its time, it was large, with three stories and ramps where horse and wagon would walk up and drop their load onto the lower level below.

From there, I visit the mansion and inside you will find information about the many families and couples who owned and then sold the estate until it became a part of the National Parks. Reading the names makes you see how the dreams of the owners of the estate are universal. Land, home, beauty, comfort, wealth, self-sufficiency, and more. That was what it was. A dream. They lived it when they lived here. I hope they knew how fortunate they were, even if fleeting.

I enter the gift shop, small, but shopping is always fun, buy a few items and of course, must have a bottle of water. The kids find me sitting at a bench outside the screened porch. It's afternoon now and more people arrive. A couple are walking their dog around the grounds of the mansion and say that they saw a snake and point in the direction of the grass. The kids hurry to find the snake and they do and stoop to look at it. I stay at the bench. I've seen enough snakes in my lifetime.

The couple also mention that they saw a snake in the outhouse. This outhouse is near the screened porch and is made with the same fancy stone as the mansion. I imagine a snake curled up on the stone floor enjoying the warmth. The kids go look and confirm there is a snake in the outhouse. One of the reasons indoor plumbing may have been widely accepted.

From the mansion we walk to the barn where we wait for the 3 o'clock bus tour and by this time there are many more people. The bus arrives and the guide is amazed at how the bus is completely full, something that rarely happens. During the tour you'll learn about buffalo wallows, the grasses, why this place was never farmed and the careful process of burning the grasses.

After your visit, you too, may say, yes, grass can be interesting!

Road at Tallgrass Prairie

© 2009 Marina Rundell

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