Tallgrass Prairie Revealed

Big Bluestem
Big Bluestem

Tell me true, have you ever seen anything more beautiful than golden, red, Big Bluestem against a clear blue sky?

This morning, after I dropped the red dirt kids off at their respective schools, I swung by Starbucks and armed myself with an extra-hot, soy, chai tea and a coffee, black.  At home, HH leaned against the truck, cell phone to his ear, waiting for me.  I handed him his coffee, grabbed my trusty camera, and we were off on our adventure to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

Iron Trestle Bridge

We crossed the Arkansas River on U.S. Highway 64 on this bridge.  I have a thing for iron trestle bridges.  These magnificent structures are slowly being replaced throughout the state with their newer, but boring concrete counterparts.

On the two and half hour trip, we talked about work, the kids, scenery and friends, all the things we can’t discuss without constant interruption at home. I would suggest that day trips are one of the keys to a happy marriage.  As Carol might say, “Embrace day trips for a happier life.”

In Pawhuska, we ate at Bad Brad’s BBQ.  If you’re ever in the foreign land of Pawhuska (capital of the Osage Nation) you should make a stop.  The brisket is tender, and the sauce has just the right bite.

Signage for Simple Folk
Signage for Simple Folk

When I saw this sign at the southern end of the preserve, I thought, must they really tell people these things?  Bison, or buffalo, are large, grazing, WILD animals, and if angered, the bulls will trample or gore you.  They are also unpredictable, so if you get the chance to visit the preserve, don’t mistake it for a petting zoo.

Over 2,500 bison roam this land.  To get this photo, I stood on the truck seat and climbed through the sun roof.  That way, if this little guy’s mom or dad got testy, HH could take off in a hurry.  I’m told that the buffalo know when the heaviest tourist days are and stay away from the roadways.  The best times to see them are during the week.  Like many humans, they like a 40 hour work week and take off on Saturdays and Sundays.


Every November, the Nature Conservancy has a bison drive where they gather the buffalo, vaccinate and count them and take blood tests to discover the purity of the herd.  Interesting huh?

The preserve consists of 39,000 acres of uncut prairie formerly owned by the Chapman-Barnard Ranch.  The Nature Conservancy purchased the land in 1989, and it is the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie remaining on the planet.  While we were at the headquarters, the docent told us scientists from Columbia visited that morning trying to learn how to protect their own prairie.  All of us helping each other.  Very cool.

Trees along Sand Creek
Trees along Sand Creek

However, the prairie isn’t only about grasses, it is a blend of grass, annual and perennial plants along with the forest which grows along the banks of Sand Creek, the major watershed of the preserve.  My property is also part of the contiguous forest.  Seeing those few trees reminded me of home.

What do you think the settlers pondered when they topped hill after hill and all they saw was undulating grass broken only by only a line of trees near water?  Go see the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, and I think you’ll have an idea.


  1. Pam/Digging says:

    Thank you for taking us along on your tall-grass visit, Dee. I really enjoyed your post and pics. Having read the Little House series not long ago, I remember Laura’s perspective on what the early settlers thought about the prairie—as vast and overwhelming as the ocean, but also as majestic.

    Pam/Digging´s last blog post..East Austin garden blogger party

  2. Cindy says:

    That sounds like a great way to spend the day. Good company, great food, beautiful scenery … what more could you ask?

    Cindy´s last blog post..Weight Loss Secret Revealed!

  3. Dave says:

    That would be such a nice place to see. It’s good to see such preservation implemented effectively. I suppose the signs have to be posted for fear of litigation, but you do have to wonder who really would think that bison wouldn’t be dangerous?

    Dave´s last blog post..The Backyard Remodel Tour Part 1

  4. Dennis says:

    I enjoyed your story about the prairie. Thanks for sharing. This has been such a good year for tall grass and more and more people are taking an interest in it, especially this time of year as the fall colors set in.

    Dennis´s last blog post..Towards a Flint Hills story

  5. Seems like you had a bison erm whale of a time. Prairies sound like my kinda place. Reading your post has left me with one burning question: where do the bison go on their weekends? 😀

    Yolanda Elizabet´s last blog post..Got Bucket?

  6. kate says:

    It sounds as if you had a delightful day. Maybe it’s because I grew up on the Canadian prairies, but my favourite landscape is tallgrass prairie… thankfully there are still protected places in both the US and Canada. I think many settlers felt that incredible sense of freedom that we do standing overlooking the flat prairie … with those amazing skies.

    kate´s last blog post..Where I played …

  7. Hi Dee, this looked like a wonderful day out, that I may just have to make with the Hubster one of these days. I really enjoyed your tour and piccies. Sarah

    Brit’ Gal Sarah´s last blog post..And the weather here is – Crazy!

  8. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Dee, this sounds like a paradise. I love prairies. Thanks for taking us with you on your date day.

  9. Gail says:

    Hey Dee, I love the grass against the sky, it is a wonderful shot! I was so excited to plant a Little Bluestem this spring. They are native here, too. We once had huge herds of buffalo that the Cherokee hunted. Thank you for a wonderful taste of Prairie….Gail

    Gail´s last blog post..Memory Tree

  10. Sandy says:

    Interesting. I thought you were going to say you went over near the New Mexico border. My parents saw tall grass there years ago. We will be moving back out west when my husband retires, and hope to see all of these beautiful places.

  11. Marnie says:

    The thriving prairie is beautiful, especially when it blooms. You are lucky to have such a wonderful reserve near you. We have a few smaller areas that are nice.

    I enjoyed seeing the buffalo. Imagine what it must have been like when herds were so large you couldn’t see from one end to the other.

    Hi Marnie, I would love to go back in the spring and show what it looks like then. We’ll see. I thought of the same thing about the buffalo. Can you imagine how scary that would be on a horse with only a bow & arrow or a spear?~~Dee

  12. It’s the sound of grass and reeds as well. Very soothing – except I can imagine in vast expanses like this it can be unearthly too.

    Notices – we have notices on roads which tell us to beware of airoplanes flying over-head. What are we supposed to do? Duck?


    Lucy Corrander´s last blog post..THE REMAINS OF REEDS

    Oh, Lucy, that’s funny.~~Dee

  13. Beautiful photos! And congrats on becoming the OK examiner! Yay for you!

    And can I also say…Mmmmmmm soy chai tea latte….

    ~Angela 🙂

    Angela (Cottage Magpie)´s last blog post..What’s Blooming: June 2008

    Hi Angela, oh yes, I had one this a.m. It warmed my entire morning.~~Dee

  14. rose says:

    Wow, 39,000 acres of prairie! We have several prairie restoration sites in Illinois, but nothing of this size. It’s wonderful that they have preserved such a large area. Like you, I often think what the pioneers must have thought upon seeing a sea of grasses. A very interesting post.

    rose´s last blog post..When Life Hands You Lemons . . .

    Hi Rose, we’re lucky that the land in that area is too rocky for farming & that the ranchers who owned the land used the burn method to take care of it. It kept the virginal prairie.~~Dee

  15. deb says:

    Dee, I wish we had known about this when we were in OK for vacation this summer. It sounds great and the boys would have loved to see the bison. Thanks for sharing your trip.

    Hi Deb, you guys can go there when you return to OK. There are lots of fascinating sites here I think.~~Dee

  16. Marie says:

    Great post 🙂

    Marie´s last blog post..Walking in beauty. / Vandring med kvilepuls.

    Thank you, Marie.~~Dee

  17. Sherri says:

    I love prairies! The bison was magnificent!

    Sherri´s last blog post..Walk through the yard and Fall Decorations

    Thank you, Sherri. I’m glad you enjoyed it.~~Dee

  18. carolyngail says:

    I am telling you true, Dee. NO I’ve never seen a more beautiful grass growing on the prairie.

    Your journey takes me back to my youth when I was a big fan of the Little House on the Prairie books. It’s so heart warming to know that someone cared enough to preserve this beautiful piece of God’s good earth.

    Thanks for sharing.

    carolyngail´s last blog post..SOUTHERN SINS

    Carolyn Gail, thank you.~~Dee

  19. aiyana says:

    Sounds like a wonderful day trip. I should get out more, now that the weather has cooled, and do the same thing!

    aiyana´s last blog post..Green Thumb Sunday ~ Coryphantha elephantidens

    Go for it, Aiyana!~~Dee

  20. Carla says:

    What fun! Thank you for sharing your special day!

    Carla´s last blog post..Silly Video Saturday! We Hungry Doggies…

    Thanks for stopping by, Carla.~~Dee

  21. Benjamin says:

    Very cool indeed. Prairies are so wonderful, so wonderful. My wife and I live near a 300 acre park or so, not big, but they have about a dozen bison. Yesterday we stopped by to see the geese in the pond, and the bison, but never knew there were also elk there. They has some HUGE racks (antlers). One came up over a hill–so magical–and stood at the top surveying the landscape, providing a lovely silhouette to the blue sky behind his antlers. And I didn’t have my camera with me!

    Benjamin´s last blog post..Take On Me: Literal Video Version

    Benjamin, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading your comment. You had me there with you looking at that magnificent elk. Your words painted such a picture that I didn’t need a photo.~~Dee

  22. Brenda Kula says:

    I love the grasses against the background of the endless sky. Sounds lovely, Dee.

    Thanks, Brenda. Wish you could have been there with me.~~Dee

  23. That is awesome! We have quite a few small prairies around here, but the closest one with Bison is at Fermilab, which is about an hour away. I love Bison, they’re so majestic & they make an excellent burger.

    Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog post..I’ve Got A Really Big Aster

    They do make a great burger and Buffalo has gotten quite popular in Oklahoma in the last few years.~~Dee

  24. Diana says:

    I love grasses, too. Right now our Gulf Coast Muhly is blooming beautifully and it’s so pretty to see it all blowing in the breeze. Those bison are amazing. I can see you like a woman on African safari shooting those photos out of your sunroof.

    Diana´s last blog post..Whew…

    Diana, I had to go look up what Gulf Coast Muhly looked like, and yes, it is so lovely. The best thing about grasses is the movement in the garden.~~Dee

  25. Les says:

    If I were wealthy, I’d change my will to leave a good chunk of my estate to the Nature Conservancy. I am not religious, but I believe they do God’s work. We do not have many wide open meadows here, let alone prairies, unless it is a fallow farm field. What isn’t taken up by sprawl is heavily wooded. I love the open spaces, maybe that is why I like the beach and marshes so much.

    Les´s last blog post..A Fine Fall Day

    Les, maybe you’ve inspired someone to at least leave some of their estate to the Nature Conservancy. We need to preserve our wild spaces, and they do a wonderful job here.~~Dee

  26. Robin says:

    What a fun day trip! That “little guy” didn’t look so little to me! I’d hate to see what dad looked like!

    Robin´s last blog post..Potter’s Bridge

    Yeah, he wasn’t very little was he?~~Dee

  27. debra says:

    Hi Dee, your day trip with HH is an inspiration! Now that my own HH (well, his initials are BB so I guess I’ll just call him that!) is on a little sabbatical due to the banking meltdown, we have to re-think the logistics of two of us working from the same house. I think the occasional day-trip might be an excellent antidote to feeling cooped up and in each other’s “space”! Thanks for the idea.
    And thanks for sharing the Tallgrass Prairie. Why didn’t we go see it when GWA came to Oklahoma? xoxo deb

    debra´s last blog post..California Garden and Landscape History Society

    Debra, it’s a good way to reconnect.~~Dee

  28. Jenny B says:

    I think the prairies are beautiful. When my children were little I read them the “Little House On The Prairie” series, and when I read Laura Ingalls description of the prairies, I was hooked.

    I thought the Bison preserve was fascinating. There is one in Johnson City at the LBJ ranch too. They are amazing creatures, and I am glad they have been able to build some of the herds back.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Now that I have discovered yours, I will visit often!

    Jenny B´s last blog post..Sunsets and Blossoms

    Welcome, Jenny. I’m glad you stoped by.~~Dee

  29. What a beautiful place that it is, and it is great that it is going to remain a preserve, without development. It must have left many a pioneer awestruck to see it.

    Thanks for the link, yes, embrace day trips for a happier life (and marriage)!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog post..Win A Free Pair of Daily Garden Shoes

    Thanks, Carol. I’m glad you enjoyed going on the trip with me.~~Dee

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