Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Oklahoma is the largest protected area of tallgrass remaining on Earth. Originally covering over 142 million acres in 14 states, the Tallgrass Prairie was one of North America's major ecosystems. Today, the ecoregion is confined to Oklahoma and Kansas, canvassing 37,000 acres of the only protected ecosystem of its type in the world.
Sweeping vistas of the open prairie landscape, along with incredible sunrises and sunsets are just some of the many natural attractions of this ecoregion. A driving tour through the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve conveys the same images of namesake tallgrasses - big bluestem, Indiangrass and switchgrass, each of which can reach up to eight feet in height in moist, deep soil sites - and herds of grazing bison that greeted pioneers as they crossed the plains in covered wagons over a century ago.
A scenic route on county roads leads visitors through the Preserve as well as adjacent private ranches. The 50-mile drive takes about 2 hours travelling at a leisurely pace and allowing time to enjoy the views from the 4 scenic turnouts. Also available along the route are picnic facilities, a nature trail, 2-mile hiking trail and a ranch bunkhouse dating back almost 100 years.
For a scenic retreat, book a cabin at Osage Hills State Park, a densely wooded park nestled in lush, rolling hills.
Watchable wildlife in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve includes:
- More than 2,700 American Bison
- Greater Prairie Chicken
- White-tailed deer
- 243 Native Vertebrate species
Take time to visit the near-by towns of Kaw City, Burbank, Webb City and Shidler. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk.