Getting to know your home
In 2009 I began what would become an extensive exploration of my home state, Kansas. It was no coincidence this interest in Kansas coincided with my serious interest in photography.
Also, in 2009, I began docent training at Konza Prairie to become a docent of Konza Prairie and the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Having spent most of my Saturdays from February through October in the learning center of Konza Biological Prairie, I became more than fascinated with what had been a hidden world for the first 49 years of my life. The nature of Kansas was no longer a place that was just outdoors, it became an entirely new world unto itself.
This is the spark that has continued to this day. I have no doubt that it will continue until my last day on Earth. As much as I love all the marvelous wonders of nature, from the majestic mountains, mysterious oceans and sees, the wonders of our deserts, and all things in between, my hope is that when I leave this physical world, the place I spend eternity will be the prairies.
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars
Seems a fitting quote by Walt Whitman, being from the land of the tallgrass I know all too well the magical work that is held in each leaf of grass. For the past, 25 million years grasses have covered our world, from deserts to arctic tundra. Grasses are the most abundant plant life on Planet Earth. It goes without saying, I am somewhat biased when it comes to: “the land of the tallgrass”.
The only thing that surprises me more than the abundant natural beauty that resides within Kansas is how few folks are aware of it. It shouldn’t be a surprise that folks from other states are not aware of this, but there are a good number of Kansans that are not aware as well.
The story for both usually goes like this; “I have driven through or around Kansas and there just doesn’t seem to be much to see. A few hills, lots of farms, and flat land. I think that’s about it.”
Interstate 70 runs directly through Kansas from East to West, or West to East for that matter. Many, many folks (if not the vast majority of non-Kansans) form their opinion of the state while driving this well-traveled interstate. This would be similar to judging a book by fanning the pages. My opinion of the book would be just a bunch of words on a page, what’s the big deal? It has been said and now has almost become another motto that; Kansas doesn’t take your breath away, it lets you breathe. There is poetic justice to that statement. Justice that doesn’t come from driving down a highway or a single stop at a rest area. For this reason, I would suspect the beauty of Kansas will remain hidden from many who may think they know the nature of Kansas but will never understand or experience it in person.
I am going to use this page to list resources that I have come across that may help shed light on the nature of Kansas. From nature preserves, and scenic drives, to interesting touristy things. This list will continue to grow and or be modified as new resources are discovered. There is one thing about Kansans, we are a busy bunch and like the weather in these parts, things can change quickly. Hope you get a chance to check a few out.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, north of Strong City. The preserve protects a nationally significant example of the once vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem.
Konza Prairie – The Konza Prairie Biological Station is a 3,487-hectare preserve of native tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas. It is located south of Manhattan, Kansas and its southern boundary parallels Interstate 70.
Maxwell Wildlife Refuge – In 1943, the Henry Maxwell estate donated 2.560 acres (4 sq. mi.) of land to the Kansas Forestry, Fish, and Game Commission for the creation of a wildlife refuge dedicated to bison and other prairie species.
Cheyenne Bottoms – Cheyenne Bottoms is one of 29 places in the United States on the List of Ramsar wetlands of international importance. It is located 2 miles east of US Highway 281, midway between Hoisington and Great Bend.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge – Quivira is listed as a Wetland of Global Importance. Features a rare inland salt marsh.
Nature Conservancy Kansas – The Nature Conservancy is the largest conservation organization in the state of Kansas. Since 1989, the Conservancy has protected over 95,000 acres of land across the state including tallgrass prairies, wetlands, mixed-grass prairies, and short-grass prairies.
Kansas River – The Kansas River is one of the few free-flowing rivers in the Country.
Kansas Byways – Kansas has twelve byways, nine scenic, two of which are National Scenic Byways, and three historic byways.
Travel Kansas – There’s no place like Kansas.
Kansas Wildflowers & Grasses – This site contains information and more than 5849 identification photos for 834 species of forbs, grasses, sedges, rushes, trees, and other woody plants found growing in Kansas.
Kansas Sampler Foundation – Marci Penner and her father, Milferd Penner, co-authored three Kansas guidebooks in the early 1990s and then founded the Kansas Sampler Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to help preserve and sustain rural culture.
8 Wonders of Kansas – A book that tells much. Author Marci Penner has worked with all 216 entries to compile background information, location, contacts, Web sites and hours to make this spiral-bound book a handy tool when exploring Kansas.
8 Wonders of Kansas Geography – Kansas geography-specific list.
It has always been about more than Kansas nature photography.
As the galleries on this site continue to grow, a large part will always be dedicated to the natural beauty of Kansas. For the most simple reason, it is my home and where I live. Within minutes I can be in places to photograph the natural beauty of my home state. This is the case for almost all who enjoy nature and landscape photography. Their homelands will be their most available playground.