Places to Visit—Konza Prairie

Places to Visit | Next Place | Previous Place

color photo of hill covered in prairie grass with hills in distant background
small drawing of Kansas map with Riley County highlighted in red

Riley County, Kansas

Native tallgrass prairie is a trademark of much of the Flint Hills, thanks to the region's geology. Alternating layers of cherty limestone and shale form steep-sloped hills that are capped by the harder limestones. As the limestones are broken down by erosion, the even harder chert (or flint) accumulates at the surface. The combination of thin, rocky soils and steep slopes has precluded cultivation and promoted grazing and preservation of the native vegetation.

Konza Prairie is a perfect example of tallgrass prairie that has retained its native characteristics. Konza Prairie Research Natural Area, containing 8,616 acres, is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by the Kansas State University Division of Biology for research on native prairie ecosystems. Two areas have been established for public use. A scenic overlook (pictured above) is five miles north of Interstate 70 (exit 313) on Kansas Highway 177. Three public hiking trails, open from dawn to dusk, are located near the main entrance to Konza Prairie on McDowell Creek Road. In addition to flint, invertebrate fossils, native grasses, and wildflowers, hikers can see deer, coyotes, turkeys, bats, or other wildlife.

From Interstate 70 (exit 307), take McDowell Creek Road northeast five miles (from Manhattan, McDowell Creek Road heads southwest from Kansas Highway 177 just south of the Kansas River; drive 6.3 miles to the main entrance). A sign marks the main entrance on the east side of the road. Take the gravel road about one-half mile to the parking area. The trails begin at the parking area, where trail guides are available (from The Geologic Record, vol. 6.1).

Other places to visit in the Kansas Flint Hills.

Places to Visit | Next Place | Previous Place