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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

hiking the Konza Tallgrass Prairie in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas

Remembrances: When I was young I drove solo across the United States of America several times, east to west and north to south. I have seen most of the lower forty-eight as they used to say, and Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The first trips were for exploration, to see what was to be seen in the world. In later years I was chasing a career, moving from city to city where there might be better jobs, trying to make it in the world.

It was my habit because I traveled alone, to stop every few hours and find some place to walk and stretch my legs and clear my mind. Sometimes I would walk up and down the main street of a small town, going into shops and casually talking to people. I remember a dainty lady’s tea shop stuffed with multi-cultural bric-a-brac, where the air was heady with incense. I spontaneously intoned “Ommm...” (as in a Buddhist Om mani padme hūṃ of compassion) for balance, and from a far corner of the store another woman, who regretfully will always remain unknown to me, replied with her own “Ommm” in harmony. It was a mystical experience of joy.

Other times, I would find a park or nature trail to hike, keeping an eye out for predators of all sorts. One of the most beautiful trails I have ever walked is a several mile hike through the Konza Tallgrass Prairie located in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas. It was a beautiful early autumn day so I took some photographs. Later I conveyed the best of those photographs and the following descriptive poem with a Certificate of Provenance to the Cave Spring Association, a 36-acre urban nature center and historic area, located in Kansas City, Missouri, an entity which is a 501- c 3 and a charity 509- a 1, including 170- b 1 A (vi) approved organization, in perpetuity, for their use in promotions, exhibits, and historical records.

Specifically, I empowered Cave Spring Association in the following uses of the described images and poem; these uses including, but not limited to:

a) exhibition; including display on-site, display off-site; and inclusion on signs and posters, and;

b) publishing; including postcards, greeting cards, brochures, booklets, handouts, pamphlets, reports, and/or other publications and communications; and/or inclusion in any book published by recipient;

c) public programs; including broadcasts, and/or other forms of media;

d) promotional materials; including fund-raising mailings to sponsors or potential sponsors, special events announcements, advertisements, announcements, bulletins, and/or flyers;

e) recipient’s website(s) promoting recipient, and recipient’s mission and/or activities.

Later, I was shocked to learn that American plains bison, locally known as buffalo (6’ tall at the shoulder, 318 to 1,000 kg/701 to 2,205 lb, top speed 30 mph), roam that prairie and the adjoining woodlands. I still feel that someone should have warned me.

Walk the Konza Tallgrass Prairie Poem, by Annmarie Throckmorton, 2005.

(I could find no brochures promoting the Konza Tallgrass Prairie in 2005. Surely such a beautiful and unique landscape needed words, so I wrote the following from scientific publications, and my own experience, and heart.)

The Konza Tallgrass Prairie is named in honor of the Kanza Indians (also spelled Konza , also called Kaw) a Native American people who lived here just a few generations ago, and for whom the state of Kansas is named.

Management includes periodic clearing by fire, and grazing by bison and deer to simulate natural conditions on the native tallgrass prairie.

In a good year, the tallgrass prairie can reach heights of over eight feet. For thousands of years, grasslands stretched across the north American continent. The wind still blows over the Konza Tallgrass Prairie with a sound unlike any other, it lulls and invigorates. It stirs, it smoothes, it runs over the abundant grasses: the Indian grass, big bluestem grass, and little bluestem grass, buffalo grass, and switch grass. In season, the prairie bears wild flowers: sunflowers, blue asters, sumac, phlox, and smaller blooms abound in the grass. Wild rose bushes, oak, walnut, hickory, and hackberry trees edge the prairie.

The wide tallgrass prairie is home to many creatures, large and small. There are songbirds such as the melodic vireo, eastern meadowlarks, and upland sandpipers, morning doves, woodpeckers, eastern bluebirds, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, greater prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows. Wood rats hide their brush-pile nests under low-lying shrubs. Bison again roam the Konza Tallgrass Prairie, along with wild turkey, and deer, who can be seen early in the morning or late in the evening.

The Konza Tallgrass Prairie is located in the heart of the Flint Hills, a region which has steep sloped limestone outcrops, and rocky soils. Collared lizards dwell on the sunny slopes. The Flint Hills are composed of flint-bearing limestone layers alternating with layers of softer shale. Rain percolates into the flint-fractured limestone, seeps down to the underlying sheets of shale, and runs laterally to form springs that flow out from under limestone ledges. In this way, Kings Creek originates on and flows through the Konza Tallgrass Prairie.

You are cordially invited to walk the Konza Tallgrass Prairie. Watch out for the buffalo!

Caption: Konza Tallgrass Prairie-photographs by Annmarie Throckmorton, 2005.

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