|Council Grove is situated in the Flint Hills,
a physiographic province of beautiful grass-covered uplands.
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
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.
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.
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
from PrairyErth, page 13