As we stepped out into the cold, it was clear we weren't going to be able to complete the full hike. We started at the trailhead right outside the visitors center, and you head over a little bit of a rocky trail through a small orchard before breaking out into the prairie. My other mistake in this stop is that it was November, which meant most of the vegetation had already gone dormant! But, we did get a flavor of what the hike has to offer, and I think on a nice day, it would be an easy and pleasant walk. We did not see any wildlife or anything in our brief time here.
From the pictures, you can see the sorts of views you can expect along the nature trails. The panoramas are of the grasslands - I think when they green, it would be very striking.
Just a few minutes north of Cottonwood Falls on Hwy 177 is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, one of the few places in the US with remnants of the native tallgrass prairie. This preserve is on what was formerly the Z-Bar Ranch. More information including travelogue can be found on my Strong City, Kansas, pages (still to come).
If you are driving other areas of the Flint Hills around Chase County (and others) you will have an opportunity to view the beauty of the prairie, especially in spring through mid-summer when numerous wildflowers bloom.
The main street in downtown Cottonwood Falls is aptly named Broadway. It is paved with brick and was made wide enough to turn a horse and carriage around in it.
Along Broadway there are shops, restaurants and a the four-diamond Grand Central Hotel. This makes a good staging area for those who want to explore the Kansas Flint Hills or the nearby Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
The Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, is the oldest courthouse still in use in all of the 105 counties of the Sunflower State. It is a real beauty, and is said to be the states finest remaining example of the Second Empire architectural style. The courthouse, which stands at the edge of the downtown area overlooking Broadway, was begun in 1871 and completed in 1873. This seems like a mighty big courthouse for a county with a population of only 3,030 (2000 census). However, Chase County had 8,246 inhabitants at the time of the census of 1900.
The county is named for Salmon P. Chase. He was successively a Governor of Ohio, United States Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Chase was a strong opponent the expansion of slavery into Kansas when he was in the Senate.
National Geographic Traveler and National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations surveyed hundreds of professionals to evaluate nearly 60 North American parks in terms of ‘sustainable tourism, destination quality, and park management.‘
Coming in the top quarter at number 14…Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Panellists commented: "The interpretation of what the tallgrass prairie once was will stagger the imagination—a great stop for cross-country drivers. The landscape is breathtaking."
Read more online or in the July/August 2005 issue! http://www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler/features/nprated0507/nprated.html
A few miles north of the twin towns of Strong City and Cottonwood Falls, in the heart of the glorious Flint Hills, you'll find a small outpost amid the grass...a ranch house, stone barn and countryside schoolhouse.
The grassland surrounding you is the American Serengeti, great swathes of which have fallen victim to the tractor, steamroller and backhoe as the land was gobbled up for development. The Flint Hills survive as one of North America's largest remaining prairies because of its remoteness, the slopes of the hills and the shallow stoney soil ruling out most farming or habitation.
At the monumental 1880s ranch house you can learn more about the history and natural features of the area. There are short walks leading to surprising vistas or over to a darling one-room schoolhouse.
You are almost guaranteed to have many acres of grassy hillsides to yourself.
There are two in town. Shown below is a view of the Roniger Memorial Museum which highlights a large collection of Native American artifacts.
I'm sorry to say that I have not yet visited the other, the Case County Historical Society Museum dedicated to preserving the history of the Flint Hills area.
I love this majestic old building, as do many citizens of the sunflower state. It is undoubtedly the most frequently photographed courthouse in Kansas. It was built of native limestone in the French renaissance style, 1871-1873.
Few activities in Cottonwood Falls are must see activities. If you are there then taking a tour of the court house seems like the thing you must do. These jail cells are on the upper floor of the court house in the back. You can lock your tourist companions inside and take their picture.
This is a view of the small town from the upper windows of the Chase county court house. While you are inside of the court house pick up brochures and maps there for local attractions.
There are quite a few nice little shops in Cottonwood Falls. At the western wear shop you can get out fitted like a real cowboy.