Thursday, January 24, 2013

The “Pristine” Tallgrass Prairie

When I first visited Konza Prairie Biological Station (KNZ) I imagined that I was looking out over the same tallgrass prairie that early pioneers traversed in their Conestoga wagons. Day after day, they travelled through waves of grass stretching to the horizons, with few trees and wide, open sky (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Waves of grass stretching to the horizons at Konza Prairie.
Of course, I knew that some parts of Konza were not pristine. The nature trails that I frequently hiked on Konza passed the Hokanson Homestead and provided excellent views of the limestone barn and house of the Dewey Ranch. Immigrants and wealthy land prospectors established and actively farmed or ranched the area since the 1870s. But the waving grass still convinced me that my site had been little altered by humans.