News / USA

Tallgrass Still Waves Undisturbed on the Plains

But it’s only a fraction of the 'Sea of Grass' that once grew there

Delicate flowers pop up in the Kansas tallgrass prairie. (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Delicate flowers pop up in the Kansas tallgrass prairie. (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Ted Landphair
One-third of North America - stretching from what is now Indiana in the Midwest westward to the Rocky Mountains - and northward from Texas deep into Canada - was once uninterrupted prairie, where Plains Indians hunted free-roaming bison, elk and antelope.  
    
A “sea of grass,” the first Europeans called the never-ending prairie. Others called it the “Great American Desert,” thinking that nothing but wild grasses and flowers could grow there.  

They were wrong. That sea of grass is now America’s breadbasket.

But following more than a century of settlement and cultivation, only two significant pieces of the great tallgrass prairie survive, on hills in eastern Kansas too rugged to farm.
Tallgrass Still Waves Undisturbed on the Plains
Tallgrass Still Waves Undisturbed on the Plainsi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X


Ranchers bring their cattle - and a herd or two of bison - there to graze where millions of bison once tramped.

In 1996, the nation’s only tallgrass preserve was established when the owners of the Z Bar-Spring Hill Ranch sold their 4,000-hectare property. Not to the federal government but to a private organization called the National Park Trust.  
A footpath winds through the Konza preserve. (earlycj5, Flickr Creative Commons)A footpath winds through the Konza preserve. (earlycj5, Flickr Creative Commons)
x
A footpath winds through the Konza preserve. (earlycj5, Flickr Creative Commons)
A footpath winds through the Konza preserve. (earlycj5, Flickr Creative Commons)

Thus, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve became the nation’s only privately owned national park. But government employees manage it and give tours.

It’s a land of subtle beauty, especially when the sun gets low and grasses produce spooky shadows. And in winter, when ice storms create a frozen wonderland.

Four kinds of grasses thrive there: big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass, and Indiangrass. Each flowers differently in the spring. And waves slowly nearly every day, since the wind seems to always blow there.  

Ninety kilometers away is a larger remnant of the prairie on another former cattle ranch. Called the “Konza Prairie” after a Kansas Indian tribe, it gets few visitors because it’s operated as a facility where researchers test the effects of climate, grazing, and fire.

Like parts of the African savannah and South American pampas, the Konza and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve are native prairies. They have never been plowed.  

The conservation groups that own them intend to keep it that way, so that what one writer called “earth’s eternal lullaby” - the tallgrass prairie - can endure.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid