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K-State Today

August 30, 2011

Trailblazer: Konza Prairie a recreational, educational and research resource for 40 years

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

As classes begin and the population of Manhattan nearly doubles, residents may be looking for a peaceful getaway. The relief is only a few miles south of Manhattan in the majestic Flint Hills of Konza Prairie Biological Station, owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. 

The purpose of Konza Prairie Biological Station, managed by K-State's Division of Biology, is to conduct long-term ecological research, education and prairie conservation; however, a small sector of the 8,600-acre research site has been set aside for public hiking trails.

"The trails offer up hikes of up to six miles that wind through lowland forests, creeks and ancient limestone ledges leading to spectacular views of the Flint Hills and the Kansas River Valley," said John Briggs, director of Konza Prairie and professor of biology.

Open from dawn to dusk, different trails offer a variety of opportunities to observe the wildlife and plant life in their native environment of the tallgrass prairie. Trails begin at the parking area near the main entrance on McDowell Creek Road, where there is a guest register and self-guided trail brochure.

"The nature trails are maintained by the Division of Biology and the Friends of Konza Prairie," Briggs said. "Maintenance of trails depends on user contributions, so we appreciate a $2 maintenance donation."

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Konza Prairie Biological Station and the 30th anniversary of the Konza Long-Term Ecological Research Program. To celebrate, the Institute for Grassland Studies is hosting Grasslands in a Global Context, an anniversary symposium Sept. 12-14, and Konza Prairie is hosting Tasting in the Tallgrass, Sept. 30, in the Konza Prairie Meeting Hall.

The symposium will feature keynote speakers from grasslands around the world, while the tasting will feature wines from grasslands around the world, complementary food pairings and beer made in the Kansas Flint Hills by Tallgrass Brewing Co.

Tickets to the tasting are $100 per person and space is limited. All proceeds from Tasting in the Tallgrass will enhance graduate student research at Konza Prairie. Sponsors of Tasting in the Tallgrass are Ray's Apple Market, Caterpillar Work Tools, Oz Winery, Tallgrass Brewing Co., KanEquip and WTC. For more information about the hiking trails or Konza Prairie celebration events visit the Konza Prairie Biological Station website, http://kpbs.konza.ksu.edu/index.html.