Celebrate Kansas Day in Your National Parks
January 29 marks the anniversary of Kansas' statehood, also known as Kansas Day! If you didn't know the Sunflower State has its own holiday, you've been missing out. Mark your calendars and head to one of the many great national parks in Kansas this month for a reminder of why we call this area of the country the heartland.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
North America's tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres, but generations of farming and development have reduced it to a tiny fraction of its once vast size. Most of what still remains is now located in the Kansas Flint Hills, where it is protected as the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The preserve spans nearly 11,000 acres, with sweeping natural views and abundant wildlife, including one of the last remaining bison herds. Stop in at the brand new visitor center, take a self-guided Ranch Headquarters tour, or spend hours exploring the preserve's intricate system of hiking trails. Our favorite, the Southwind Nature Trail, leads to a still-intact, one-room schoolhouse built in 1882!
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Few Supreme Court decisions have been as important as the ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1952, a landmark decision that ended legal segregation in American public schools. School districts in four states and the District of Columbia were involved in the case, including schools in Topeka, Kansas. Today, the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is headquartered at Monroe Elementary School in Topeka. Once one of the only schools in Topeka set aside for black students, Monroe Elementary was integrated following the Supreme Court's ruling, and is now open to the public.
Nicodemus National Historic Site
Kansas was seen as a "promised land" of sorts to newly freed African-Americans after the Civil War. Many blacks fled the south following the war, heading west to newly founded black colonies, or settlements. Founded in 1877, the community of Nicodemus, Kansas, is one of the few such settlements that remain to this day. Now preserved as the Nicodemus National Historic Site, the community includes a handful of historic buildings, including a visitor center with exhibits that harken back to Nicodemus' fascinating history.
Fort Larned National Historic Site
Once home to a group of troops known as the "guardians of the Santa Fe Trail," Fort Larned National Historic Site includes a complete and authentic U.S. Army post that operated during the 1860s and 1870s. The fort continuously hosts historical exhibits and live reenactments, providing a unique opportunity to step back in time to when Kansas was on the very edge of the frontier. The grounds and historic buildings of Fort Larned are open to self-guided, as well as ranger-led, tours.
The Sunflower State will always hold a special place in America’s heartland. As Kansas celebrates its birthday on Jan. 29, honor the occasion with a visit to one of the state's unique national preserves and historic sites. Don’t forget to share your stories at FindYourPark.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr by using #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque. Have a happy Kansas Day!
Photo credits: National Park Service and Janice Kresin