Guide highlights wildlife and natural heritage of eastern Kansas hill country

LAWRENCE -- Audubon of Kansas has announced the release of a new travel guide featuring the Flint Hills and Chautauqua Hills of Kansas. Entitled Tallgrass Prairie Parkway Wildlife and Natural Heritage Trail Guide, the publication describes the best areas for wildlife viewing, bird-watching, nature photography, wildflower appreciation, canoeing, trail hiking, and horseback riding, among other outdoor activities. The publication also highlights the area’s ranching legacy, rural communities, and historic and scenic attractions.

The Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma encompass the only remaining area in North America with extensive tallgrass prairie. This prairie is associated with historic accounts of abundant wildlife, Native American culture, 19th century frontier settlement, wagon trails, cattle drives, and ranching. The Flint Hills also provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including greater prairie chickens and upland sandpipers.

The Prairie Parkway, designated by the Kansas Legislature in 1967, is the featured route across most of the Tallgrass Trail. It runs south from the Pony Express Station in Washington County, past the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Chase County, to the Little House On the Prairie site near Independence.

Audubon of Kansas designed the trails project (the first of four planned for Kansas) to appeal to a broad segment of Kansans, as well as visitors to the state. The guide reveals often overlooked natural treasures, such as the 233-acre pristine property surrounding Alcove Spring in Marshall County, the 65-acre Oregon Trail Nature Park in Pottawatomie County, and the Kaw Nation’s 158-acre Allegoawaho Memorial Heritage Park near Council Grove. For first-time visitors, these areas may seem like seldom-visited corners of a national park.

The guide also introduces a website (www.kansaswildlifetrails.org) that provides links and additional details on public sites and community attractions fostering appreciation of birds and other wildlife, as well as prairies and other habitats. The website assists visitors with directions and information on trails and facilities, lists common and rare birds that can be seen at various times of the year, and outlines other wildlife viewing opportunities.

A second publication featuring central Kansas will be available in September. It will highlight two of the state’s wetlands of international importance -- Cheyenne Bottoms, near Great Bend, and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, near Stafford -- as well as the Smoky Hills and Red Hills regions of the state.

The Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife and Natural Heritage Trail Guide is available free at visitor centers and other locations throughout the state, or it can be ordered from Audubon of Kansas, P.O. Box 156, Manhattan, KS 66505-0156. Donations to cover postage are requested.

For more information, contact Ron Klataske at 785-537-4385.