Q: Where is all the tall grass?
A: It is a common misconception that one will see an entire prairie of six feet tall grasses blowing in the wind at any time of the year. In the spring the grasses are just beginning to grow. It takes nature an entire season to grow the prairie grasses. Think of "tall in the fall". The tallest grasses grow in the bottomland areas where water is more readily available and the soils are deeper. The grasses on the prairie uplands will generally grow between three and five feet high.
Q: Why is the preserve developing so slowly?
A: As stated before, anything worth doing is worth doing well. The preserve is a developing park and this development is part of the excitement. Each year new and varied interpretive programs, special events, out-reach programs, and educational opportunities take place. Planning for the entire development is vital, because one activity will effect another both positively and negatively. For example, it would be unwise to allow an activity which is detrimental to the prairie or the cultural resources. For this reason, sometimes it appears that the preserve is developing slowly. Planning for preservation and education is very important, because once resources are damaged it is too late. Growing at a slower pace allows managers to make wise decisions without harming the resources.
In the lifetime of a park, the preserve is actually developing quite rapidly. Within four years of the park's creation, a General Management Plan was completed. This plan was developed with input from the public, allowing everyone's voice to be heard. Some parks do not have such a plan for 15 - 20 years. This plan sets the stage for future development and visitor experiences, while protecting the natural and cultural resources. The National Park Service's mission is to preserve those natural and cultural resources for future generations. Without these resources, there is no reason to visit these special places. We encourage everyone to continue revisiting the preserve to experience both the natural and cultural resources the preserve has to offer.
Q: When will the preserve stop cattle from grazing and when will we only see bison on the landscape?
A: Grazing with historic cattle breeds and bison will always remain on the preserve landscape. Cattle and bison have different grazing habits that individually benefit the prairie's health. Bison prefer grasses, while cattle prefer forbs (plants/wildflowers). Grazing with both bison and cattle assists prairie diversity, while giving opportunities to educate the public about the cultural history of the Flint Hills.
Q: How are fire and grazing interconnected with the health of the prairie?
A: The prairie requires both fire and grazing. Fire rids the prairie of woody plants and dead undergrowth which slows the growth of new grasses. Grazing allows seeds to develop in newly disturbed areas. Grazing also stimulates plant growth. Historically bison were the largest (size) grazers on the prairie landscape. After the slaughter of the bison in an attempt to control the Native Americans, the Flint Hills developed into a prime location for fattening cattle before shipment to market. Cattle can gain up to two pounds per day on the lush bluestem grasses of the Flint Hills. The rocky Flint Hills region was difficult for farming, so it became useful to large cattle ranchers. Cattle were commonly shipped to the Flint Hills to graze before selling at market. This practice still holds true today. The preserve works with its partners to optimize the amount of grazing on the landscape to promote the full expression of a diverse prairie ecosystem allowing both plant and animal life to flourish. Working together, fire and grazing promote prairie health.
Q: Where can I take my pet for a walk at the preserve?
A: We welcome pets common ranch ground and the Nature Trails. Visit the Pets page for more details.
Last updated: April 7, 2022