Beginning in the mid-1800s homesteaders replaced the American Indians in the Flint Hills with large cattle ranches. Sparsely populated today, the Flint Hills contain most of the remaining tallgrass prairie in the world and have some of the largest cattle ranches in Kansas and Oklahoma. There are three official tallgrass prairie preserves in the Flint Hills, the largest of which, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, also boasts one of the largest populations of bison in Oklahoma. The other preserves, both located in Kansas, are the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Konza Prairie.
The largest town in the Flint Hills region is Manhattan, Kansas.
The Flint Hills Scenic Byway passes through the Flint Hills in Kansas.
William Least Heat-Moon wrote a tribute to the Flint Hills and the Kansans who live there in his book PrairyErth.
Special Coverage of the Flint Hills
Kansas Flint Hills Featured in April Issue of National Geographic
Traveling Exhibit Debuts at Kansas State Capitol March 19, 2007
Topeka, Kansas... National Geographic's April 2007 issue examines the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas through the lens of respected photojournalist and Kansas native, Jim Richardson. The 22-page feature section, titled "The Flint Hills: A Kansas Treasure" captures a glimpse of the majesty of this unique Kansas prairie-land.
To complement the magazine spread and further celebrate the Flint Hills, The National Geographic Society and the Kansas Division of Travel and Tourism are sponsoring a traveling exhibit of 32 large-scale versions of the photographs featured in the magazine. The exhibit, which includes stops across the state of Kansas, opens for the first week of display in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Topeka on Monday, March 19, 2007. It then moves to the Governor's Office for one week, beginning March 26, 2007. An extensive 18-month exhibit schedule is planned for more than 30 communities across the state. For a complete exhibit schedule listing, visit www.TravelKS.com. As part of the celebration, posters featuring one of Richardson's Flint Hills photographs will be for sale with proceeds benefiting the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition.
The Flint Hills extend from near the Nebraska border south into Oklahoma. The region's core is roughly bounded by I-70 on the north, I-35 on the south and east and Kansas-15 on the west. Within this area, the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway stretches 48 miles along Kansas-177 from Council Grove, once a Santa Fe Trail staging area, south through Strong City and neighboring Cottonwood Falls, then on to Cassoday, a tiny ranch town that bills itself as the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World.
Explorer Zebulon Pike named the Flint Hills in 1806 for the cobbles of flint-like chert that glinted through the tall prairie grasses. In this nearly treeless region of immense horizons, big bluestem grass nourished by minerals in the limestone grows so tall that early explorers wrote of having to stand up in the saddle to get their bearings. The lush grass drew vast herds of buffalo that the native hunters followed.
Beginning in the mid-1800s, cattle rapidly replaced the buffalo, and the homesteaders displaced the Indians. The honey-colored limestone provided building blocks, even fence posts, for settlers in the wood-scarce landscape. Today, because its rocky soil has stubbornly resisted the plow, the Flint Hills region retains much of its untamed character.
"The Flint Hills beckoned because they provide a spectacular landscape in our own backyard," Richardson said. "The Flint Hills should never play second fiddle to our nation's most recognized landmark landscapes."