When you close your eyes and allow the classic ode to simpler, western life and living “Home on the Range” to wash through your imagination, a bevy of images of Americana likely spring to mind. You might see crisp, clear blue skies hovering over long, gently rolling plains of tall grass where “the buffalo roam” through valleys and hills, over rivers and streams. These images are imprinted on the collective American psyche.
If this simple thought experiment could transport the dreamer with a snap of their fingers to the place so named for that little ditty, where that imagery is reality and “home on the range” is a daily way of life, that dreamer might find themselves in the great state of Kansas.
As one of the more historic mid-western states that served long ago as the gateway and beginning of the genuine frontier before the westward expansion of the U.S. truly took root, Kansas has a story to tell.
Thankfully, it also has an impressive array of state parks that preserve this story, the state’s history, and most importantly, its natural wonders for all to behold and enjoy.
Below are some can’t-miss stops to visit when passing through “America’s Heartland”:
Meade State Park: Typical of the area and the region where outdoor living is not only a way of life but a way to thrive off of the land — even in these modern times — this state park near Meade, KS, is a sportsman’s dream. Anglers of all skill levels and interests flock to Meade State Park year-round to try and land their share of bluegill, trout, crappie, catfish, and largemouth bass swimming the waters of Lake Meade. In addition, this state park contains a 360-acre wildlife area that is a siren call for dove, quail, and deer hunters. Of course, visitors can simply hike the grounds or pitch a tent under the Kansas stars and enjoy all of the natural beauty this state park offers.
Prairie Spirit Trail State Park: Two-wheel lovers and hikers alike want to run to this Kansas state park as quickly as possible. Sporting a unique design, it is almost linear as it traverses some 51 miles between Iola and Ottawa, KS, through several quaint and charming rural communities. Cyclists love the scenic route that winds through an abundant and diverse array of ecosystems, from prairie land, riparian land, and agricultural areas. All who seek to walk, bike, run, or camp on or along its scenic trail are welcome.
Prairie Dog State Park: Named for the adorable native creatures that can be seen scurrying along the fields and plains of Kansas, this state park has much more to offer than simply prairie critter watching. The Keith Sebelius Reservoir, an impoundment of the nearby Prairies Dog Creek that flows through the tall winding grass of the high plains, is open and available to fishermen, swimmers, kayakers, and canoers alike. The region’s wildlife watching, including the black-tailed prairie dogs, is unparalleled. In particular, pheasants, deer, wild turkeys, prairie falcons, and golden eagles are prevalent here. Camping is also available for longer-haul nature lovers at this true gem of the high plains.