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Places We Protect

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Kansas

Sun setting on a hilly horizon of lush grass and flowers.
Tallgrass Prairie Sunset at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kansas. © Ryan Donnell

The U.S.'s only national park unit dedicated to the tallgrass prairie, privately owned by The Nature Conservancy and co-managed with the National Park Service.

Overview

Description

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.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

Open 24 hours a day, year-round.

Highlights

Whether you're a birdwatcher, wildflower lover, hiker or just an eternal student with an interest in history, this preserve will keep you busy.

Size

10,876 acres

Explore our work in Kansas

Parking will be limited in March & April 2022. 

Construction and parking lot paving at the Visitor Center parking lot will temporarily restrict parking spaces in late March and early April 2022. At times, there will be no vehicle access from Highway 177. Three nearby trailheads are available for overflow parking. Call the preserve at 620-273-8494 for the latest information to plan your arrival.


Visiting Hours

Open 24 hours a day, year-round. No camping.
Bicycles, ATVs, and private vehicles are not allowed.

Visitors Center Hours

May through October: 8:30am - 4:30pm, daily
November through April: 9am - 4:30pm, daily

Closed: New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day

Preserve Events Calendar

Prairie Bus Tours

Preserve bus tours remain canceled at this time.

There is no driving of personal vehicles on the preserve. However, the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway along K-177 offers a view of the prairie from your vehicle. Tune your car radio to 1680 AM to learn more while in the area.

Podcasts and Virtual Tours From the National Park Service

Fishing Ponds

Three preserve ponds are open to the public for catch and release fishing under the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Park's Fishing Impoundments and Stream Habitats program. The ponds are open during daylight hours year-round. A valid Kansas fishing license is required for anglers between the ages of 16 to 65.

Pets

Pets on leash or leads may accompany you in the parking lots, picnic areas, and in the areas surrounding the historic buildings. Pets are not allowed inside park buildings or on the bus for prairie tours, except service animals. 

Dogs on leash are allowed to accompany you on four nature trail sections year-round: Fox Creek Trail, Z Bar Spur, Bottomland Nature Trail, and Southwind Nature Trail. Dogs on leash are allowed on the Two Section Trail only when cattle are not present (fall to early spring). 

Please pick up after your pets. Waste disposal bags located at the kiosk at the base of the driveway hill and on the Southwind Nature Trail access point.

Volunteer

Several single-day volunteer workdays are held at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve throughout the year.

Prairie Stewards is a group of dedicated volunteers who assist The Nature Conservancy and National Park Service with ongoing preservation and restoration activities. 

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map