Nature Trail - Tour
The nature trail is 2.5 miles long and circles the 80-acre Kansas Historical Society grounds. You will experience prairie and woodland environments and enjoy the native flora and fauna along the way.
The nature trail is open sunrise to sunset. Picnic tables are located nearby.
- Nature trail brochure (PDF)
- Nature trail activity guide (PDF)
- Lewis and Clark on the Nature Trail teacher-guided tour
Kansas is at the heart of the prairie region, which covers much of the Central Plains. In eastern Kansas the prairie is characterized by tall (three feet and higher) grasses, short grasses, and a variety of flowering plants. More than 150 types of grasses and 300 species of wild flowers are in a tallgrass prairie. Visitors hiking the east trail will see Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, Switch Grass, and a variety of animals that call the prairie home.
The Master Gardeners Native Flowers and Grasses plot includes more than forty varieties of prairie plants. This garden is located near the Potawatomi Mission.
Begin your tour of the nature trail at the trailhead, located east of the museum and research center complex near the parking lot. As you head east, you will cross a bridge. This portion of the trail is ADA accessible. The surface can support wheelchairs and strollers.
The east trail takes you through the prairie with glimpses of wildflowers and native tree species. You will wind through the prairie section and see examples of Kansas fencing styles--rail, stone, hedgerow, and barbed wire.
Eastern Red Cedars, Redbuds, Black Walnut and Elm trees and Eastern Gamma grass line this trail that follows a creek. A cultivated field for more than 100 years, this edge between the trees and grasses is attractive to many animals. For deer and rabbits the creek offers food and water while the trees provide a hidden retreat. (Blue flax along the trail blooms in the spring.)
The Potawatomi Mission is also located along the north trail. The building, completed in the spring of 1850, housed approximately 90 Native American children. The children were taught reading, writing, and basic skills such as needlework and blacksmithing. The students' farm labor was intended to make this boarding school self-sufficient. Eleven years later the school was closed due to funding failures and the Civil War.
The north trail, in spring time, offers a spectacular showing of color with blue flax and other wildflowers. Your journey through this woodland trail will pass benches and cross another bridge.
Near the Potawatomi Mission you will find the picnic area and playground equipment.
Current Relationships Between People and the Environment
This trail section features a rope bridge, bluebird houses, and an open classroom area which can seat approximately 18 adults or 24 children.
When erosion from the creek bed threatened to destroy the museum's parking area and utility pipes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assisted in stabilizing the stream bank. Through progressive engineering efforts, the natural beauty of the creek was preserved.
On this section of the trail you will see native trees and shrubs, including green ash, red oak, burr oak, American Sycamore, hackberry, bitternut hickory, black walnut, American plum, elderberry, and rough-leafed dogwood. Willows were planted immediately above the rock line.
This walk through the prairie to the historic Stach School is reminiscent of one that thousands of Kansas schoolchildren followed each day. In the spring the route to the country school was easy, as the grasses were just starting to grow. Upon returning in the fall, students cutting through the prairie would have found thick stands of big bluestem reaching high over their heads and hummocks of shorter native grasses beneath their feet.
The Stach School was built in 1877 east of Delia in Jackson County. It was named for John Stach, a Czech immigrant who donated an acre of land for the site. From 45 students enrolled in the 1920s, school attendance gradually diminished as people moved to cities, transportation improved, and schools consolidated. The Stach School closed in 1956. Today it is open to school groups through the Rural School Days program.