Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is located in the heart of the Flint Hills—the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie left in the world. It is the only unit of the National Park Service (NPS) that is dedicated to the rich natural history of the tallgrass prairie.
A Unique Model to Preserve the Tallgrass Prairie
In 1996, Congress authorized the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, creating a unique model of private/public ownership that was called "a model for the nation" by Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker. The authorizing legislation mandated that the majority of the preserve must be owned by a private entity—not the federal government.
By 2004, the preserve’s private partner had run into financial difficulty, to the extent that it appeared portions of the land would be sold to satisfy debt and other liabilities. The Nature Conservancy came to the park's aid by purchasing the preserve and partnering with NPS to jointly manage this remnant of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.
One of the Most Diverse Ecosystems In the World
Tallgrass prairie is an incredibly diverse ecosystem. The preserve is home to over 500 species of plants. Prominent grasses such as big bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, and little bluestem appear to dominate the plant community; however, they are far outnumbered by the diversity of herbaceous plants (wildflowers). Fauna ranges from large grazing animals like deer, bison, and cattle to a multitude of insects, amphibians and reptiles and other animal life. Grasslands birds, like greater prairie-chicken (a type of grouse), which have lost much of its native habitat, are of particular interest.
Bison: An Icon Returns
In 2009, The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service reintroduced bison to the preserve. Thirteen bison were secured from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota and shipped to start a small satellite herd at the preserve. These bison are first to roam the preserve in more than one hundred years. Visitors to the preserve can often view the herd which has reached since grown to 100 animals.
Tallgrass Prairie Quarter Minted
On November 16, 2020, the United States Mint issued a coin commemorating the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve under the America the Beautiful Quarters program. The program selected one national park for other site in each state for its natural or historic significance. The quarter depicts a skyward view of a regal fritillary butterfly against a backdrop of iconic big bluestem and Indian grasses.