Council Grove is an excellent place to start exploring the Flint Hills. The annual Washunga Days in mid-June celebrates Native American heritage. Members of the Kaw Nation tell traditional stories and host powwows around a bonfire near the Kaw Mission Historic Site and Museum while a parade and food vendors take over downtown.
Council Grove serves as the gateway to the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, a 47-mile drive through the tallgrass prairie. In Cottonwood Falls, 22 miles south of Council Grove, the Grand Central Hotel and Grill offers cut-to-order steaks and updated guest rooms in an 1884 hotel.
Just outside Strong City, you’ll find the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve with more than 10,000 acres of natural prairie. Tallgrass prairie used to cover 170 million acres of North America. Today, less than 4 percent remains untouched, most of it in the Flint Hills.
A new visitors center opened at the preserve in July 2012, plus miles and miles of hiking trails are available for self-guided tours. Keep an eye out for some of the dozens of brightly colored butterflies found in the preserve, including monarchs, orange sulphurs and Reakirt’s blues.
The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a diverse ecosystem. The numbers of different species you’ll find include:
• 500 plants
• 150 birds
• 40 mammals