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Tall Grass Prairie Preserve questions..

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Hi, Seeking advice about a possible trip in June 2010 (thinking mid-June). Visiting the prairie (bison viewing) is my main objective, and checking out some other nearby sights. Is Tulsa, OK the best airport to fly into, and rent car from there? Should I arrange accommodations in Pawhuska, OK or would Strong City, KS be a better option? I don't know much about the area, so would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks for all advice. Greg

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    Greg, There are actually 2 Tall Grass Prarie Preserves. The one in Kansas is operated by the National Park Service and is more oriented towards plant types and historic buildings. The one with the bison is in Oklahoma and operated by the Nature Conservancy. So where you stay depends on which one you are visiting. If you go to the Oklahoma one, you might also consider staying in Bartlesville. It will have many more options for lodging and eating. If the main purpose is to see bison in their native habitat, you also might consider Custer state park in western South Dakota.

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    Most of what remains of the fragile and endangered tallgrass prairie ecosystem is located in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Early June means abundant wildflowers, birds, and local festivals. The Flint Hills National Scenic Byway is a route of about 40 miles on Hwy, 177 between Council Grove (a national historic site), through Strong City and the spectacular Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and Cottonwood Falls, to Mattfield Green. In 2010, the fifth annual Symphony in the Flint Hills, an outdoor concert performed by the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, will be held in mid-June (symphonyintheflinthills.org.). The historic Flint Hills Rodeo will be in early June in Strong City, and the Flint Hills Folk Life Festival will be June 12, 13, at Cottonwood Falls. In Council Grove, have breakfast with working cowboys at Saddlerock Cafe, or eat at the Hays House (Since 1857 - the oldest continuing restaurant west of the Mississippi). Stay at the elegant Grand Central Hotel/Grill in Cottonwood Falls and have buffalo burgers at the Emma Chase Cafe (chasecountyks.com). In the southern Flint Hills near Sedan is the Red Buffalo Ranch (theredbuffalo.com), 8,000 acres of native prairie (with buffalo) owned by Bill Kurtis, with beautifully restored cabins and stone houses to rent, and waterfalls and ponds for fishing. You may want to fly into Wichita and rent a car - just be sure you get out of it. You have to walk on the tallgrass prairie, under open skies, to see the Flint Hills.

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    Consider staying at Osage Hills State Park inthe cabins, or the Price Tower (boutique property)for a more upscale experience. Its the only cantilevered skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Or if you like B & Bs, the Inn a Woodyard Farms is Pawhuska. You would also like Woolaroc, Frank Phillips Ranch nearby - all sorts of wildlife and great culture. Lots of Osage Nation places in Pawhuska. The Cathedral is amazing (small, but it's the stained glass thats incredible - made in Germany.)

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    I just read in the paper they are relocating some bison from South Dakota to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve:

    LAWRENCE | If all goes as planned, a herd of wild bison will be roaming the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve by early November.

    A team from the national park is in South Dakota this week observing as about 20 wild bison are rounded up at the Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills.

    Tallgrass Prairie officials say the bison — ranging in age from 1 to 2 1/2 years — will be shipped to the Flint Hills by November. The plan is to eventually have a herd of about 100 bison roaming parts of the 11,000-acre tallgrass prairie near Strong City.

    “We’re excited about it because a lot of people consider buffalo to be a real symbolic species of the prairie,” said Kristen Hase, chief of natural resources for the Flint Hills park. “We believe for visitors to be out there and see these animals on the landscape is going to be pretty neat.”

    There are other buffalo herds on private property in the Flint Hills, but this herd will be the easiest for the public to see, Hase said.

    The herd will be confined to an 1,100-acre pasture in the park, with tours expected to go through the pasture to allow visitors to see the animals.

    The bison are scheduled to be shipped back to Kansas within the next week, but only after they are tested to ensure they don’t carry any viruses that could harm livestock living near the Tallgrass Prairie.

    The bison come from a herd of about 525 buffalo at Wind Cave that is one of only two federal herds in the country that have been genetically tested and found to be free of any cattle DNA.

    “If you want to get a sense of what the Plains were like thousands of years ago, these are the bison that will bring that back to you,” said Tom Farrell, a spokesman for Wind Cave.

    The project to bring the bison to the Flint Hills is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service. The nonprofit Nature Conservancy is buying the herd, but employees at the national park site will help care for the animals.

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