Flint Hills

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Flint Hills
Flint hills kansas.jpg
Flint Hills tall grasslands map 2.svg
Map of the Flint Hills ecoregion
Location Manhattan, Kansas (largest), Great Plains, United States
Coordinates 37°17′00″N96°40′31″W / 37.28333°N 96.67528°W / 37.28333; -96.67528 Coordinates: 37°17′00″N96°40′31″W / 37.28333°N 96.67528°W / 37.28333; -96.67528
Length252 km (157 mi)
Width150 km (93 mi)
Area25,733 km2 (9,936 sq mi)
Elevation512 m (1,680 ft)
Website Flint Hills Website

The Flint Hills, historically known as Bluestem Pastures or Blue Stem Hills, [1] are a region in eastern Kansas and north-central Oklahoma named for the abundant residual flint eroded from the bedrock that lies near or at the surface. It consists of a band of hills stretching from Kansas to Oklahoma, extending from Marshall and Washington Counties in the north to Cowley County, Kansas and Kay and Osage Counties in Oklahoma in the south, to Geary and Shawnee Counties west to east. [2] Oklahomans generally refer to the same geologic formation as the Osage Hills or "the Osage."

Kansas State of the United States of America

Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita, with its most populated county being Johnson County. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. Kansas is named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the (south) wind" although this was probably not the term's original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

Flint Cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz

Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white or brown in colour, and often has a glassy or waxy appearance. A thin layer on the outside of the nodules is usually different in colour, typically white and rough in texture. From a petrological point of view, "flint" refers specifically to the form of chert which occurs in chalk or marly limestone. Similarly, "common chert" occurs in limestone.

Contents

The Flint Hills Ecoregion is designated as a distinct region because it has the most dense coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. Due to its rocky soil, the early settlers were unable to plow the area, resulting in the predominance of cattle ranches, which are in turn largely benefited by the tallgrass prairie.

Tallgrass prairie ecosystem native to central North America

The Tallgrass prairie is an ecosystem native to central North America. Natural and anthropogenic fire, as well as grazing by large mammals, were historically agents of periodic disturbance, which regulates tree encroachment, recycles nutrients to the soil, and catalyzes some seed dispersal and germination processes. Prior to widespread use of the steel plow, which enabled conversion to agricultural land use, tallgrass prairies expanded throughout the American Midwest and smaller portions of southern central Canada, from the transitional ecotones out of eastern North American forests, west to a climatic threshold based on precipitation and soils, to the southern reaches of the Flint Hills in Oklahoma, to a transition into forest in Manitoba.

The Flint Hills Discovery Center, a science and history museum focusing on the Flint Hills, opened in Manhattan, Kansas, in April 2012.

Flint Hills Discovery Center Heritage center, Science center in Manhattan, Kansas

The Flint Hills Discovery Center is a municipal heritage and science center located in the city of Manhattan, Kansas. Featured within the facility are exhibits detailing local history and preservation of the Flint Hills, a theater, a specialized interactive playground for youth and parents, and a temporary exhibition gallery. The facility also promotes various educational outreach programs for youth and adults and serves as a venue for special events.

Manhattan, Kansas City and County seat in Kansas, United States

Manhattan is a city in northeastern Kansas in the United States at the junction of the Kansas River and Big Blue River. It is the county seat of Riley County, although it extends into Pottawatomie County. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 52,281.

Description

Konza Prairie Preserve, a tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills Konza2.jpg
Konza Prairie Preserve, a tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills
A walking trail in the Konza Prairie shows the height of the grasses in the fall. Konza Prairie Trail Fall 1.jpg
A walking trail in the Konza Prairie shows the height of the grasses in the fall.

Explorer Zebulon Pike first coined the name the Flint Hills in 1806 when he entered into his journal, "passed very ruff flint hills". The underlying bedrock of the hills is a flinty limestone. The largest town in the area is Manhattan, Kansas, and the hills can be accessed from the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, which passes through in Kansas.

Zebulon Pike soldier and explorer from the United States

Zebulon Montgomery Pike was an American brigadier general and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado was renamed. As a U.S. Army officer he led two expeditions under authority of third President Thomas Jefferson through the new Louisiana Purchase territory, first in 1805-06 to reconnoiter the upper northern reaches of the Mississippi River, and then in 1806-07 to explore the Southwest to the fringes of the northern Spanish-colonial settlements of New Mexico and Texas. Pike's expeditions coincided with other Jeffersonian expeditions, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) and the Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis expedition up the Red River (1806).

Geology

The rocks exposed in the Flint Hills were laid down about 250 million years ago during the Permian Period. During this time, much of the Midwest, including Kansas and Oklahoma, were covered with shallow seas. As a result, much of the Flint Hills is composed of limestone and shale with plentiful fossils of prehistoric sea creatures. The most notable layer of chert-bearing limestone is the Florence Limestone Member, which is around 45 feet thick. Numerous roadcuts of the Florence Member are prominent along Interstate 70 in Riley County, Kansas. Unlike the Pennsylvanian limestones to the east, however, many of the limestones in the Flint Hills contain numerous bands of chert or flint. Because chert is much less soluble than the limestone around it, the weathering of the limestone has left behind a clay soil with abundant chert gravel. Most of the hilltops in this region are capped with this chert gravel.

Midwestern United States region that includes parts of Canada and the United States

The Midwestern United States, also referred to as the American Midwest, Middle West, or simply the Midwest, is one of four census regions of the United States Census Bureau. It occupies the northern central part of the United States. It was officially named the North Central Region by the Census Bureau until 1984. It is located between the Northeastern United States and the Western United States, with Canada to its north and the Southern United States to its south.

Limestone Sedimentary rocks made of calcium carbonate

Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolostone, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In fact, in old USGS publications, dolostone was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolostones or magnesium-rich limestones.

Shale A fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock

Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering or bedding less than one centimeter in thickness, called fissility. It is the most common sedimentary rock.

The highest point in the Flint Hills is Butler County High Point, with an elevation of 1680 ft (512 m). [3]

Butler County, Kansas County in the United States

Butler County is a county located in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Kansas. As of the 2010 census, the county population was 65,880. Its county seat and most populous city is El Dorado.

Environment

The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the World Wildlife Fund have designated the Flint Hills as an ecoregion, distinct from other grasslands of the Great Plains. [4] [5]

Beginning in the mid-19th century, homesteaders replaced the American Indians in the Flint Hills. Due to shallow outcroppings of limestone and chert, corn and wheat farming were not practical over much of the area and cattle ranching became the main agricultural activity in the region. Therefore, not having been ploughed over and still sparsely developed today, the Flint Hills represent the last expanse of intact tallgrass prairie in the nation and the best opportunity for sustained preservation of this unique habitat that once covered the Great Plains. Most of the plains, such as the Central tall grasslands to the north, have better soil than the Flint Hills and had a richer plant cover, but have almost entirely been converted to farmland. [2] Tallgrass prairie is regularly renewed by fire and grazing, which also keep back the growth of trees and shrubs. Prominent grass species are big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans).

Animals of the grassland include the American bison, which once grazed the area in their millions, were almost entirely exterminated and have now been reintroduced. The elk that also once roamed the area are now gone.

Four tallgrass prairie preserves are in the Flint Hills, the largest of which, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, (the former Barnard Ranch) in the Osage Hills near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, also boasts a large population of bison and is an important refuge for other wildlife such as the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). The other preserves, all located in Kansas, are the 17-square-mile (44 km2) Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in northern Chase County, Kansas near Strong City, [6] [7] the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Preserve east of Cassoday, "the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World", [8] and the Konza Prairie, which is managed as a tallgrass prairie biological research station by Kansas State University.

See also

Related Research Articles

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, north of Strong City. The preserve protects a nationally significant example of the once vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Of the 400,000 square miles (1,000,000 km2) of tallgrass prairie that once covered the North American continent, less than 4% remains, primarily in the Flint Hills. Since 2009, the preserve has been home to the growing Tallgrass Prairie bison herd.

Texas blackland prairies

The Texas Blackland Prairies are a temperate grassland ecoregion located in Texas that runs roughly 300 miles (480 km) from the Red River in North Texas to San Antonio in the south. The prairie was named after its rich, dark soil.

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, located in Osage County, Oklahoma near Foraker, Oklahoma, is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. It is protected as the largest tract of remaining tallgrass prairie in the world. The preserve contains 39,000 acres (160 km2) owned by the Conservancy and another 6,000 acres (24 km2) leased in what was the original tallgrass region of the Great Plains that stretched from Texas to Manitoba.

Cross Timbers

The term Cross Timbers, also known as Ecoregion 29, Central Oklahoma/Texas Plains, is used to describe a strip of land in the United States that runs from southeastern Kansas across Central Oklahoma to Central Texas. Made up of a mix of prairie, savanna, and woodland, it forms part of the boundary between the more heavily forested eastern country and the almost treeless Great Plains, and also marks the western habitat limit of many mammals and insects.

<i>Sorghastrum nutans</i> species of plant

Sorghastrum nutans, commonly known as either Indiangrass or yellow Indiangrass, is a North American prairie grass found in the central and eastern United States and Canada, especially in the Great Plains and tallgrass prairies.

Osage Plains west-central Missouri, the southeastern third of Kansas, most of central Oklahoma, and extending into north-central Texas in the USA

The Osage Plains are a physiographic section of the larger Central Lowland province, which in turn is part of the larger Interior Plains physiographic division. The area is sometimes called the Lower Plains, North Central Plains,or Rolling Plains. The Osage Plains, covering west-central Missouri, the southeastern third of Kansas, most of central Oklahoma, and extending into north-central Texas, is the southernmost of three tallgrass prairie physiographic areas. It grades into savanna and woodland to the east and south, and into shorter, mixed-grass prairie to the west. The Osage Plains consist of three subregions. The Osage Plains proper occupy the northeast segment. Although sharply demarcated from the Ozark uplift, the plains are nonetheless a transitional area across which the boundary between prairie and woodland has shifted over time. In the central portion of the physiographic area lies the second subregion, the Flint Hills, commonly called "the Osage" in Oklahoma. This large remnant core of native tallgrass prairie is a rocky rolling terrain that runs from north to south across Kansas and extends into Oklahoma. To the west and south of these hills are the Blackland Prairies and Cross Timbers. This vegetatively complex region of intermixed prairie and scrubby juniper-mesquite woodland extends into north-central Texas. Bluestem prairies and oak-dominated savannas and woodlands characterize the natural vegetation in the Cross Timbers. Much of the area has been converted to agriculture, although expanses of oak forest and woodland are still scattered throughout the eastern portion of the subregion.

Osage Hills hilly area in Oklahoma

The Osage Hills is a hilly area in Oklahoma, commonly known as The Osage. The name refers to the broad rolling hills and rolling tallgrass prairie and Cross Timbers encompassing Osage County and surrounding areas, including portions of Mayes, Tulsa, Washington and Kay Counties. The Osage is the southern extension of the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Fults Hill Prairie State Natural Area

Fults Hill Prairie State Natural Area, also known as the Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve, is an Illinois Nature Preserve on 997 acres (403 ha) in Monroe County, Illinois, United States. A key feature of the preserve is a 532-acre (215 ha) hill prairie located on the east bluff of the Mississippi River overlooking the American Bottom near Fults, Illinois. The Fults Hill Prairie has been listed as a National Natural Landmark.

The North American Prairies Province is a large grassland floristic province within the North American Atlantic Region, a floristic region within the Holarctic Kingdom. It lies between the Appalachian Province and the Rocky Mountains and includes the prairies of the Great Plains. It is bounded by the Canadian coniferous forests on the north and the arid semideserts to the southwest. The province itself is occupied by temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Endemism is rather limited in this province, and its boundaries are vague. During the Pleistocene much of the province was glaciated.

Ozark Highlands (ecoregion)

The Ozark Highlands is a Level III ecoregion designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in four U.S. states. Most of the region is within Missouri, with a part in Arkansas and small sections in Oklahoma and Kansas. It is the largest subdivision of the region known as the Ozark Mountains, flatter in comparison to the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, the steepest part of the Ozarks.

East Central Texas forests

The East Central Texas forests (33) is a small temperate broadleaf and mixed forests ecoregion almost entirely within the state of Texas, United States. The northern forests perimeter is partially within the southeast Oklahoma border.

Central forest-grasslands transition

The Central forest-grasslands transition is a prairie ecoregion of the central United States, an ecotone between eastern forests and the North American Great Plains. It is a classification defined by the World Wildlife Fund.

Central tall grasslands

The Central tall grasslands are a prairie ecoregion of the Midwestern United States, part of the North American Great Plains.

Interior Low Plateaus physiographic province in the United States

The Interior Low Plateaus are a physiographic region in eastern United States. It consists of a diverse landscape that extends from north Alabama across central Tennessee and Kentucky into southern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Its natural communities are a matrix of temperate forests, woodlands, and prairies.

The ecology of the Great Plains is diverse, largely owing to their great size. Differences in rainfall, elevation, and latitude create a variety of habitats including short grass, mixed grass, and tall-grass prairies, and riparian ecosystems.

Central Great Plains (ecoregion)

The Central Great Plains are a semi-arid prairie ecoregion of the central United States, part of North American Great Plains. The region runs from west-central Texas through west-central Oklahoma, central Kansas, and south-central Nebraska.

Konza Prairie biosphere reserve Biosphere reserve in United States of America, designated in 1978, withdrawn in 2017

Konza Prairie biosphere reserve was a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve encompassing the Konza Prairie Biological Station in north-eastern Kansas. It was designated a biosphere reserve in 1978 and was one of 17 reserves in the United States withdrawn from the programme in June 2017.

References

  1. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Flint Hills
  2. 1 2 Klinkenborg, Verlyn (April 2007). "Splendor of the Grass: The Prairie's Grip is Unbroken in the Flint Hills of Kansas". National Geographic.
  3. "Flint Hills". Peakbagger.com. 2004-11-01. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
  4. "Ecoregion Maps and GIS Resources". United States Environmental Protection Agency . Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  5. "Flint Hills tall grasslands". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2007-04-17.
  6. "Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (U.S. National Park Service)". Nps.gov. 2014-07-07. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
  7. "Kansas Nature Conservation, Environment Issues | The Nature Conservancy". Nature.org. 2014-04-11. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
  8. "Kansas Nature Conservation, Environment Issues | The Nature Conservancy". Nature.org. 2014-04-11. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
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