Tallgrass Prairie – West Branch and Palmer Creek

Another cold weekend led to another cold hike. Tallgrasss Prairie National Preserve is one of the largest tracts of actively manage native tallgrass prairies left on the planet. The preserve is south of Council Grove. It’s owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed by the National Park Service. The trail network is pretty extensive, consisting mostly of mowed paths through the grasslands. Having done the standard scenic loops, I plotted a new route that would take us to some of the more remote sections including the West Branch trail and Palmer Creek loop. We parked at the Fox Creek schoolhouse (worth checking out if it’s open) and hiked the Schoolhouse Spur and sections of the Davis Trail and the Prairie Fire Loop to reach the major fork which took us to West Branch and Palmer Creek and then back to the school, totaling about 14 miles. The scenery in the park is mostly rolling grassy hills (brown this time of year). The north end of the trail dropped us down into Palmer Creek. At the end of the west branch trail, we came across a frozen lake that made the most amazing sound when hit by a heavy object (it’s hard to describe but kind of like a laser gun underwater). Naturally we spent a half hour throwing rocks and sticks at the lake.
Resist the weather! Get outside and explore!

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