The Tall Grass Prairie is a seemingly vast expanse, an endless sea of grass and sky. In the Flint Hills of Kansas is the remaining four percent of this landscape that once covered central North America, from Canada to Texas. The only way to experience the prairie in some element of its former glory is to “get in it”, to walk, to search, to strive to go beyond the next hill.
The national representation of the prairie is at The National Tall Grass Prairie Preserve just north of Strong City, Kansas. Here the old Spring Hill ranch house and farmyards have been converted into a visitor center and historical exhibit. Bus rides, hiking trails and excursions onto the preserve are all based here. But, in order to experience the true nature of this landscape it is best to enter through a crack in the fence instead of thru the open main gate. Driving north of the visitor center on Highway 177, one comes upon a strip farmland that separates the north eastern boundaries of the preserve and 177. Although not encouraged, slipping thru another’s property to access the park is a thrilling moment. The experience quickly transferring from the road, to the farm, to the prairie without the buffer of the visitor center opens the prairie to you with little warning, although not “in it” yet, the next hill beckons. The visitor experience must strive to recreate this feeling, the program, the architecture may not take place along someone else’s property but it can create the feeling of slipping thru a barrier, a threshold, into a different world.
Spring '11 – Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Lous