When Stephen F. Jones began acquiring this property for his Spring Hill Ranch in 1878, Kansas had been a state for 17 years, and much of the Kansas prairie was already being converted into cropland.
The majority of the land which now comprises the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was originally the property of the Spring Hill Ranch. More recently known as the Z Bar, the ranch included fertile bottom lands along Fox Creek which could be cultivated for crops, as well as thousands of acres of prime upland prairie for grazing.
The Flint Hills were too rocky to plow, but were perfectly suited for ranching. As more and more of the tallgrass prairie of the American Midwest was plowed under for farming, the Flint Hills remained in grazing. The area has become an island of refuge for many species of prairie plants and animals.
Until recently, the tallgrass prairie, a major North American ecosystem, was not represented in the National Park System. Today, at last, a portion of this rare landscape has been set aside to be preserved for all generations to enjoy. As you tour the site, you will also learn of the Native Americans and ranchers whose memories are intertwined with this prairie land, and the history of the American West.