Saturday, December 31, 2011

Riding the Tall Grass Prairie - Oct. 2011

 As mentioned in a previous post, my trip to the Tall Grass Prairie area of central Kansas finally began in October this year.  The Yamaha TW200 was loaded on the trailer, luggage, food, riding gear, extra tools, spare tubes, etc. were packed in the car with everything ready to go.  By 6AM Saturday morning, I was headed southwest.

By mid-afternoon I was in Council Grove, driving up along the west side of the reservoir to the Canning Creek Campground.  Concerned that since the weather had been so nice, I was anxious to find and get a campsite set up.  I needn't have worried.  There were a few sites taken but only a small fraction of the total sites were occupied.  I took a short ride that evening after everything was setup, then took advantage of the fire-ring for a lovely campfire.

To see the many areas I'd both read about and learned about, loops were planned, all centered out from Council Grove.  Proper thanks need to go to the Backroads Kansas forum for their huge archive of previous rides and maps.  Each of 4 loops were named with color and essentially went out like the leaves of a clover. I'd wait for weather, mood, etc. to decide which one to take on which day.  With 4 rides planned and 3 real days for riding, things were going to be left for another trip.  My laptop was along, so the GPS Routes were very subject to change and easily altered.

Santa Fe Trail Marker
Daughter's of the American Revolution
Deciding to adjust my first day's ride, Sunday took me mostly South.  It seemed a weekend day might be the best time to find the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve the 'most' open and it was a 'must see' on my trip.  Including the nearby Cottonwood Falls area would be a good place to start.

Two Min. Maint. roads converging, EXACTLY the kind of riding I was after

A very typical view, especially on my first day of riding.  Note the ridge of gravel on one side.  Speculation tells me that the grader moves that ridge from one side to the other with periodic road patrolling.  As a woman quoted in Least Heat Moon's PrairyErth said, "This air hasn't been used before".

Describing the area as "flat" wouldn't really be accurate........

Working my way down towards Strong City; the National Park Service's Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, my goal.  Much controversy brought the Preserve into being.  Private land ownership rights, Big Government presence, etc. were issues changing and postponing the creation of a National area to preserve the largest native stand of tall grass prairie land in the country and many felt it was worth saving.  I'll include a few photos I took while visiting the grounds, but the Preserve's website is the place to go if you want more info.  The ranch was owned by Stephen Jones, the house built for $25,000, the barn and other outbuildings for $15,000 from locally quarried limestone, incredible sums for Kansas prairie construction in the 1880's.

Spring Hill Farm

Looking west from the second floor of the barn

Chicken House

A lithograph of the home from 1887.......

Back of the house, looking east, photo taken from near the chicken house

Leaving the Spring Hill Farm site, I headed south to Strong City and Cottonwood Falls, picked up some backroads and rode a section of old route US 50.

Old US 50, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe mainline just to the right.

All of the first day's ride here


  1. Good story and nice pictures. I love the out in the middle of no where kind of places. Looks like the TW200 is the perfect bike for that.

  2. I SO much envy your trip here. So, so much. I have family buried in Council Grove KS.

    I have a deep love of the tall grass prairie. It is an elegant and expressive landscape, but not everyone can see this.

  3. My time down there was awe-inspiring as I knew it would be; it's hard to describe the way the wide open makes me feel.....and I felt it in spades those lovely days.

    Don't miss Day 2, 3 and 4 in "January 2012"