The Flint Hills
Council Grove is situated in the Flint Hills, a physiographic province of beautiful grass-covered uplands.  This grassland is approximately forty miles wide and stretches through Kansas from northern Oklahoma to Nebraska. The greatest breadth of the Flint Hills is along Interstate 70, where motorists can view the trapezoidal-shaped hills from Abilene on the west to Paxico on the east. The limestone rocks forming the uplands are laced with strata of hard chert, commonly called flint, hence the Flint Hills name. Shale, red sandstone, siltstone, and dolomite also lie beneath the grassy slopes of these hills.
The rocks were formed as sediments deposited on the bottom of a shallow inland sea that covered much of central North America during the Permian Period 240 to 290 million years ago. 
Over the ages the Flint Hills have proven more resistant to erosion than have the land forms on either side of them. The thin and gravelly upland soils are not conducive to growing crops; indeed, most of the ground has never been broken by a plow. Hence, the land is covered by tallgrass prairie much as it had been before Euro-American settlement. In fact, most of the virgin tallgrass prairie remaining in North American is contained in the Flint Hills.

Before the Europeans arrived, trees grew only in scattered pockets along the streams. For centuries, fires have been the enemy of wood vegetation in the Flint Hills. Whether ignited by lightning or Native Americans, the fires would periodically sweep across the uplands, destroying young trees and shrubs while stimulating the growth of grasses.  

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Another common name for the region, the Bluestem Hills, is derived from the dominant native grass species, known as big bluestem. Big bluestem and its tallgrass companions--switch grass, Indian grass, and little bluestem--are nutritious forage for grazing animals, hence the Flint Hills is renowned as one of the most productive cattle pasture regions on the continent.

People have inhabited the Flint Hills in small villages and camp sites for at least ten thousand years. Prehistoric people came here from afar to mine the chert, which they fashioned into arrow and spear points and tools. Archeologists have found chert artifacts hundreds of miles from their Flint Hills source.

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The scenic qualities of the Flint Hills have been described by scores of writers. William Least Heat-Moon devoted the entirety of a 622-page 1991 bestseller, PrairyErth to describing one Flint Hills county, Chase, which lies adjacent to Council Grove’s Morris County on the south.

"Although the height of the Hills here is not remarkable, never rising more than three hundred feet from base to crest, their length and breadth would make them noteworthy even in places outside the somewhat level horizon of eastern Kansas, but, were they forested, my English traveler would hardly know she was crossing them. Because they belong to the open world of grasses, they dominate if not the sky then surely the horizon with the symmetrical and flattened tops, their trapezoidal slopes, and (at dawn and sunset) their shadows that can stretch unbrokenly and most visibly for a prairie mile."

from PrairyErth, page 13

The Prairie
The Flint Hills
The Grove
Prehistoric People

See why the Grove was a popular stopping point along the Santa Fe Trail.