Kansas - Nature and Scientific Wonders | Travel | Smithsonian

Kansas - Nature and Scientific Wonders

Kansas - Nature and Scientific Wonders

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Beautiful Scenic Byways and Historic Highways
Seven highways in Kansas are designated as state scenic byways: the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, the Post Rock Scenic Byway, the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway, the Frontier Military Scenic Byway, the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway, the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway and the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway. Each offers travelers an opportunity to experience a small portion of Kansas’ unique landscape.

Natural and Untouched
Visitors wanting to experience natural Kansas can walk through wildflowers in prairies undisturbed by civilization, view wildlife in their natural environments or discover some of the best geological finds in the world. Regardless of the season or interest, the wild beauty of Kansas offers wonderful travel opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. Two magnificent options: visitors can see most of America’s remaining virgin prairie at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the heart of the Flint Hills. The Flint Hills, a beautiful tallgrass prairie area, extend from near the Nebraska border and south into Oklahoma. And in south central Kansas, the Gypsum Hills (or Red Hills) feature flat mesas, deep canyons, sharp high hills and red soils.

A Garden of Delights
A diverse selection of botanical gardens and arboretums can be found in Kansas. Themed gardens, prairie gardens and gardens representing the extreme environments of the desert and the tropics are a few of the gardens open to the public. Some of the most beautiful gardens can be experienced during private garden tours. The most impressive and dramatic of all the private gardens is the Binkley Gardens. This 3-acre garden features over 35,000 tulips and 12,000 daffodils. Historic neighborhoods in Topeka and Fort Scott also offer tours of their special private gardens.

Hit the Trails
For the active traveler, Kansas offers hikers and mountain bikers a wide variety of terrain featuring beautiful landscapes. Prairie trails include 24 miles of trails at Kanopolis State Park featuring a fantastic view of a sandstone canyon and 19 miles of trails that parallel the Santa Fe Trail in the Cimarron National Grassland. In contrast to the prairie trails are the wooded Mined Land Wildlife Area trails. Reclaimed from strip pit mining, the area features numerous pockets of small lakes and ponds. The Prairie Spirit Rail Trail, a 33-mile hiking/biking trail, follows an abandoned railroad route. Many of the trails in Kansas are multi-purpose trails that also allow mountain biking and horseback riding.

Where the Buffalo Roam
Kansas is home on the range for hundreds of bison, also known as buffalo, found at the many state wildlife refuges. Hunting to near extinction caused bison herds to rapidly diminish in the late 1880s. In 1871, one bison herd in southwestern Kansas was estimated at four million head. Just eight years later, the last wild bison was reportedly killed near Dodge City, fatalities of the westward expansion frenzy that swept the state. Now, visitors to two of the state’s wildlife refuges, the Sandsage Bison Range in Garden City and the Maxwell Game Preserve in Canton, can gain an up-close look at these majestic creatures by taking a guided tour into the prairies where the bison roam.

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