Love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him, for the Lord is your life! Deut. 30:20

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kansas Adventures, July; Part 1

We have driven past the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, located 2 miles north of Strong City on 177, many times. But we have never stopped to look around. This was our July destination.

Spring Hill Farm

Cattleman Stephen F. Jones and his wife Louisa came to Kansas from Colorado to begin ranching and to graze his cattle on the "fine prairie grasses" of the Flint Hills. They built this home in 1881 out of hand-cut limestone. The 11-room house is characteristic of the Second Empire style of the 19th century architecture.

The barn

We took a self-guided tour of the home. It was fascinating! It is presently under some construction so we could not see the whole place. Usually they give tours but not until maybe a year or so, when it is completed. We watched a 10 minute video (worth it).

This is the front door.

The parlors -there are 2. One to the right and one to the left of the front door.
Perhaps one was for Mr. Jones to entertain, and the other for Mrs. Jones?

What beautiful detail work!

I want to see more! The kitchen, the tunnel to the spring house.... Have to go back next year.

We went to the massive 3-story barn. They only let you go in on the 2nd floor.

In 1885, Jones' livestock numbered 200 swine, 30 horses, 8 milk cows, 4 mules, and hundreds of cattle out on the prairie.

Carriages were the mode of transportation in those days. They ranged in price from $21.95 to $79.95. The founder of this style of carriage was the grandson of John Deere.

This is the chicken house. A grass roof. It was built right into the side of the hill. Much cooler for the chickens I guess.
The fancy outhouse made of limestone.

The curing house

Stephen Jones selected this site for his ranch and named it for the natural springs found on the hillside. A cistern was built into the hillside to collect the spring water and keep it cool. The cool water was piped underground to the spring house. In the ice house, ice could be preserved for use during the hot prairie summers by packing the ice in prairie hay or sawdust. I don't know, I can't imagine it wouldn't melt in the summer heat we have been having this summer!!

You can see a trail between the garden to the left and the ice house. We had made plans to hike it. It is called the Southwind Nature Trail, a 1 3/4 mile trail. There are 8 trails, from 3/4 miles to 13 miles long on this preserve. They are open 24 hours - no camping though.

We could see the Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse where we were headed.
Beautiful fauna.
And critters. We heard a bobwhite but didn't see it.

Before you get to the schoolhouse, you go through a wooded area. I think my granddaughter Hannah would call it a jungle.
There is a boardwalk over the stream.

Climbing out of the "jungle" we came upon the school house.
Built in 1882, this one-room schoolhouse was used by the local children until 1930. We couldn't get inside the school - shucks - but I got this picture from the window.

We were pretty sweaty by the time we returned to the main house. It was supposed to get to 107 that day. Lucky we took our hike in the morning.

We then took the bus tour of the preserve's backcountry led by the National Park Service rangers. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the bus was air-conditioned! It was already probably 100 degrees at 11:00. The tour took 1 1/2 hours.

Before going onto the prairie, we came up to this fence and gate.
During the 1880's, ranching was moving from open range to enclosed pasture grazing.

This "fence" has been worn down over the years. Back in the day, they hired men to build the fences around the property for their cattle. Barbed wire cost money and the limestone rocks were free. And they are everywhere. A man could build a 15 foot stretch 3 foot high in a day. He was paid 50 cents for his labor.

Jeff, our ranger, would stop the bus at times and let us get out. He would explain about the various kind of fauna and animals on the prairie.
The preserve is home to 18 bison. They hope to bring more. Two calves were born this year.
The Kansas prairie in the early 1800's was considered wasteland. "The Great American Desert"
A collared lizard. When the ranger first mentioned lizards, I expected small ones. This guy was big!!
When Mr. Jones owned the ranch, he owned 7,000 acres. Today the preserve has 11,000 acres, 26 ponds.
So glad to have made the stop. We will have to come back when the construction is all complete along with the visitor center they are building. And on a not so hot day!


More than just okay said...

I've always wanted to stop there whenever we've passed it as well.

That place is going on our escape day trips list in a year. Brad & I need to do a little more of those for a little sanity and time to talk without constant interruption.

Looks like fun, well, except for the heat. How very nice for the bus to have a/c.

Marc, Sarah, and Luke said...

Looks like a good guys have seen some cool KS stuff this year :)

The Sieberts said...

how fun!

Rich and Carolyn Dewey said...

Tallgrass Prairie is on MY MUST-SEE list. We were going to going there today with friends, but WAAAAAYYYY too hot. Thanks for the tour. You pics are super!