Sunday, April 22, 2012

Visitor's Guide to the Flint Hills, 2012

On my way to Kansas City two weeks ago, I happened to notice this GPS map on my iPhone. I call it:

The Most Misleading Map in the United States

This is how Google maps depicts the Flint Hills of Kansas. Nothing. But what magnificent nothingness!

I sincerely believe the Flint Hills is one of the great undiscovered areas of the country, although, based on yesterday's all-day visit for this feature, I think it is on the verge of being "discovered." I saw license plates from Kansas City to California to Montana. Two cars in Cottonwood Falls unloading two bicycles each. Numerous people getting out of their cars with hiking boots on.

So what does this "nothingness" look like? Magnificent! How about these photos, all taken yesterday, (click to enlarge) and all are west of I-35 on the map above:

In many areas of the Flint Hills, the soil has never been plowed. It is America as it looked hundreds of years ago. You'll want to visit the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Combine the beautiful setting with wonderful places to stay, plenty to do, and the most friendly people you'll find anywhere and it is a wonderful place to visit.
A welcome sign in Strong City
Besides the obvious outdoor activities, what else is there to do? There are several interesting shops and galleries in downtown Cottonwood Falls and, farther north, in Council Grove. I've covered those in previous Flint Hills postings.

This year, I want to mention the old, now new, Pioneer Bluffs history preserve and museum. It is on the east side of Highway 177 just north of the town of Matfield Green.

They have a wonderful museum with a great deal of reasonably-priced high quality regional art. I loved the photo exhibition of real Flint Hills cowboys doing real cowboy chores.

There are numerous places to stay. You won't go wrong with the AAA 4-Diamond Grand Central Hotel and Restaurant in Cottonwood Falls.

And, there are numerous guest houses, one example here.

There is even a guest house devoted to train watchers!
With two mainlines of the BNSF Railway and a main line of the Union Pacific, there are plenty of trains for those who enjoy watching them in very scenic settings.

If you want to make a long weekend out of it, here are two great activities coming up:

So, come and visit us. You will have a wonderful, unique experience. 

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