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Home On The Range With Kansas National Parks

The American Heartland. 

No state occupies more real estate in the collective imagination of America than Kansas. Beyond the flowing fields of wheat, Kansas is the land of Dorothy and Toto, and Superman. The state song is Home On The Range. Sitting smack in the middle of the contiguous U.S., Kansas is famous for BBQ and watermelon. Kansas is Americana.

As with most things, there is more to the 34th state in the Union than meets the eye. Below are some of the highlights the great state of Kansas has to offer:

FORT LARNED NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE: Kansas long stood on the western frontier in the nineteenth century as somewhat of a crossover territory. Rough and tumble, its towns giving way to wild territories, unsettled and untouched, was the order of the time for this nascent territory. Unsurprisingly, much of Kansas’ history is preserved in its military footprint from long ago like this national park near Larned, KS. Visitors can stop in and learn about the fort’s role during the tumultuous Native American wars of the late nineteenth century where troops were known then as the “Guardians of the Santa Fe Trail.”

Photo Courtesy NPS

NICODEMUS NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE: An intriguing and little-known piece of American history can be found and learned from at this historic site in Nicodemus, KS. The oldest and only remaining black settlement west of the Mississippi River, where former slaves migrated during post-Civil War Reconstruction, Nicodemus and other settlements in Kansas were often referred to as a “promised land” by African-Americans of the time. This historic site commemorates and preserves the memory and sacrifice of early black Americans and celebrates their role in the westward expansion of the United States, a reminder that all Americans have a pioneer spirit piece in our shared history.

Photo Courtesy NPS

TALLGRASS PRAIRIE NATIONAL PRESERVE: Before early-American and European settlements began proliferating further and further west and before this expansion brought along a boom in agriculture in the Midwest, tallgrass prairie covered some 170 million acres of the country. These days, less than four percent remains, and most of it can be found in the great state of Kansas. This national preserve, established in 1996, protects the once-mighty heritage of the prairie ecosystem. Stop in for a guided tour, go for a long hike (or a short one!) or wet a line and try to catch (and release) a fish or two while visiting this beautiful national park.

Photo Courtesy NPS

FORT SCOTT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE: A stalwart of the early years of frontier life, this fort was established in 1842. Fort Scott played a pivotal role in some of the biggest issues of its day, most notably: slavery. On the front lines of this issue, as the battle raged pro and against slavery, forces in a cold war and into the Civil War, in addition to standing on the literal front line between early settlers and native tribes, this Fort’s history is a pivotal one and this historic site preserves this history and knowledge from which all can learn today.

Photo Courtesy NPS

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