Trails and Treasures Home Page Road Trips Across America 2004 Santa Fe Trail
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Although this preserve in the heart of the Flint Hills is not directly on the Santa Fe Trail, it provides an excellent opportunity for experiencing what it might have been like to walk through the tallgrass. This nearly 11,000-acre tract of tallgrass prairie has never been touched by a plow. Prior to being purchased by the National Park Trust, the land was known as the Z Bar/Spring Hill Ranch. The National Park Service owns a very small piece, less than 180 acres, but manages the property and provides programs for the public.
The Spring Hill Ranch house was built by Stephen F. Jones in the early 1880s. He had bought the land as summer pasture for his ranching operation located east of Denver. When the 11-room house of hand-cut native limestone was completed, he moved his wife, daughter and mother-in-law into the house.
Jones also built a massive three-story limestone barn and more than 30 miles of stone fences.
A 1.75-mile trail across the rolling hills through the tallgrass provides spectacular vistas and a unique opportunity to experience what is now a very rare ecosystem. Less than 4% of North America's tallgrass prairie remains. A short spur leads to the Lower Fox Creek School.
Geocaches: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and Fox Creek One-Room School. Not too far away are a historical marker and geocache about Chase County and the Bluestem Pasture Region of Kansas.