Tag Archives: Kansas

Beautiful Wildflower Hikes

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/379850549794553932/

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/379850549794553932

Wildflowers are to spring as snow is to winter. When we’re hiking along, wildflowers often surprise us with their abundance— such a rare sight, almost refreshing, after a long ungodly winter. Typically wildflowers last from March to August, sometimes year-round in warmer climates. They exist in all their purples, blues, reds, pinks and yellows. The term “wild” comes from their exotic quality, since they grow without human care, but spread thanks to the birds and the bees. We’ve gathered a list of beautiful wildflowers hikes from lesser known national and state parks with great views, but smaller crowds. That means more space to frolic and dance near the wildflower fields—but be careful not to trample on them.


Monkshood [Image:orums.steves-digicams.com]

Monkshood [Image:orums.steves-digicams.com]

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is home to some of the rarest wildflowers. About a dozen plant species are unique to Ozarks. Just last year they discovered a rare wildflower never seen in Missouri, called monkshood. Wildflowers can be seen from the first spring blooms to the last blooms in November. For beginners, some of the most common and easiest wildflowers to spot are the purple coneflowers, fire pinks, larkspurs, and columbines. One early bloomer to keep in mind is the Ozarks Wild Crocus, not found elsewhere, and seen from April to May in heavy forested areas, near rivers and tributaries. The rein orchid is another beauty of greenish yellow flowers, appearing from June to July, reaching two feet in height. From the name alone we can tell, the showy lady’s slipper is a magnificent beauty. This orchid is visible from May until early June, and is usually found on the bottom of limestone bluffs along small streams and in ferns.

North Carolina

Craggy Gardens in Blue Parkway [www.randmcnally-temp.s3.amazonaws.com/pois/images/28bb1174e74d4c99bfeba708c60bcbb4.jpg]

Craggy Gardens in Blue Parkway [www.randmcnally-temp.s3.amazonaws.com]

The flora of Blue Ridge Parkway is not to be missed. This world-renowned park is home to 1,400 species of plants and diverse micro-habits. Due to a wide range in elevation from high to low, visitors can enjoy a variety of wildflowers from March to October. But the best time to see an array of species is early April to May when the canopy trees start to leaf out. Summer wildflowers are blooming in the valleys while spring wildflowers bloom in the high peaks. Some dazzling early bloomers include the dandelion, dwarf iris, spring beauty mayapple, and the birdfoot violet among others. From May through August you can find the turk’s cap lily, pink lady’s slipper, evening primrose, Bee balm, and fire pink. A portion of the parkway is also located in Virginia, which naturally blooms earlier due to lower elevation. Here is the bloom schedule for more info. Blue Ridge Parkway also passes through the Great Craggy Mountains, famous for its high peaks and distant views. Take the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, a 20-minute walk that includes a 360-degree view from its summit, tunnels of rehododendron, twisted birch trees, and wildflowers spreading from beginning to end.


Crows poison [www.allthingsplants.com/pics/2012-02-29/Horntoad/24e251.jp]

Crows poison [www.allthingsplants.com/pics/2012-02-29/Horntoad/24e251.jpg]

Texas is one of those states where you can’t go without seeing wildflowers, and we mean ever. You can find the famous bluebonnets in Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site part of the 450 wildflower species in the park, including the Mexican hat, White Prickly Poppy, Blue-Eyed Grass, crows poison, among others. Also see the Indian paintbrush in Lake Whitney State Park. During spring about 40 species of wildflowers cover the roadsides and landscapes. Here you’ll get to see some animals prancing around: raccoons, foxes, bobcats, among others. Daingerfield State Park is another gem known for its wildflower hills of dogwoods, redbuds, and wisteria vines. If you’re in the mood to celebrate check out the nearby Wildflower Trails Festival, happening April 16.


Prairie Coneflower and Bergamont. [Image: www.audubonofkansas.org/tag/roadside-wildflowers-2/]

Prairie Coneflower and Bergamont. [Image: www.audubonofkansas.org/tag/roadside-wildflowers-2/]

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, one of the last remaining among its kind, is a vast prairie landscape of 10,000 acres. Enjoy its wild colors from spring to autumn. Twirl around as the wildflowers and tall grass dance to the wind. There are over 350 species of wildflowers, shrubs and other plant types. Some of the April bloomers include the Prairie Iris, grey bindweed, wild strawberry, and more found in the bloom schedule, The four dominant wildflower species in Tallgrass Prairie are little bluestem, big bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass. We hear the Southwind Nature Trail is the ideal hike to see rolling hills and streams lined with cottonwood and hackberry trees, and a variety of grasses and flowers. Along the trail spot insects, birds, and mammals that call the prairie their home.


Turks Cap Lily (Lilium superbum) [Image: NPS]

Turks Cap Lily (Lilium superbum) [Image: NPS]

Shenandoah National Park displays wildflowers for the length of the growing season, beginning in early spring (late March) as the hepatica and bloodroot push their way out. When the days warm up, purple and yellow violets flower, the large trillium and wild geraniums will appear within the forest. May is the time for pink azaleas to bloom in the forest, and along Skyline Drive, followed by the white flowers of mountain laurel in June. There are 862 plant species, and they appear in spring at lower elevations, also along streams: South River, Hughes River, Rose River, and Mill Prong. Later in the season, the banks of Skyline Drive and the Big Meadows area ideal great places to see summer and fall wildflowers. (For more specific dates, check out the park’s bloom schedule.) Seek out Dark Hallow Falls, Mill Prong, and Franklin Cliff Stroll— all well-known for their variety of wildflower exhibits.

For more info on wildflowers viewings, download our Pocket Ranger® State or National Park Apps.

Your State’s Insect

Do you know your state’s insect? While exploring your state park, try spotting one of these insects. Once you find them, snap a photo and post it to our social media sites!

Your State’s Insect


Connecticut's State's insect; Green praying mantis on a green leaf

Image: animals.nationalgeographic.com

This state’s insect is the praying mantis. It’s a green or brown insect that eats aphids, flies, grasshoppers, caterpillars and moths. The praying mantis is beneficial to farmers, and it’s a symbol of stillness and patience.


A zebra longwing butterfly on a purple flower

Image: www.floridastateparks.org

The beautiful zebra longwing butterfly belongs to the state of Florida. It has long black wings with thin stripes. It makes a creaking noise when it’s alarmed. They feed on nectar and pollen, and their life span is about six months.


Honeybees in a hive

Image: www.sciencenutshell.com

It’s the honeybee! Some of us might fear this insect, but bee pollination is crucial to plant and human survival. Honeybees live in hives of up to 80,000 individuals. Young worker bees are called house bees; they construct the hive and maintain the comb. Older workers are field bees where they gather nectar and search for pollen, water and plants.

New York

Nine-dotted red and black ladybug on a green leaf

Image: www.healthbarnusa.com

If you live in New York, your state’s insect is the amazing, nine-dotted ladybug. Ladybugs help gardeners and farmers by eating tiny insect pests that damage plants. They also eat harmful insects, such as scales, leafhoppers and mites. The nine-dotted ladybug continues to persist, but they have become very rare.


Firefly beetle lighting up on a green leaf

Image: www.thefeaturedcreature.com

The firefly beetle is Pennsylvania’s state insect. The firefly produces its light through a chemical reaction using special photic organs with very little heat given off as wasted energy. Both sexes use the flash patterns to attract members of the opposite sex.


Darner Dragonfly on a green leaf

Image: sites.google.com

The insect that belongs to this state is the green darner dragonfly. It is usually seen in the early spring through fall and it has a large body with silvery wings, compound eyes, a green thorax and a blue stripe down its back. Adult darner dragonflies catch and eat insects on the wing and they have powerful jaws that tear and chew up their prey.

Want to spot one of these creatures? Download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to find a park nearest you. And don’t forget about your state’s mammal!

Suggested Gear List:

  • Binoculars
  • Backpacks
  • Camera
  • Insect Repellent

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear store for these items and much more!

July’s Best State Park Events

park rangers, demos, festival, Eno River, state park, kids

Image: www.ncparks.gov

July is bursting with great events (and fireworks!) at state parks around the country. We’ve combed through the event calendars and uncovered the ones that you won’t want to miss:

Three Rivers Regatta
Point State Park, Pennsylvania
July 2 – 4, 2014

Three Rivers Regatta, Point State Park, Pennsylvania, crowd, boats, water, festival

Three Rivers Regatta [Image: www.brooklineconnection.com]

Point State Park is the place to be this summer! Just a few weeks after holding the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Point State Park gears up for another colossal event: the Three Rivers Regatta. Work on your summer tan while at Regatta Beach (one of only two makeshift inner city beaches in the world), then mosey on over to the larger-than-life replica of the Battle of Ft. McHenry made entirely of sand. Don’t blink or you could miss the powerboat races, where boats frequently top speeds of 125 mph!

Looking for more excitement? This year, the Regatta is hosting the XPogo World Championships in addition to BMX and agility dog stunt shows. A fan favorite is “Anything that Floats,” a parade of handmade, crazily decorated parade floats that bob down the river. This year’s headliners include American rock singer Steve Augeri, former lead vocalist for the rock group Journey, jazz musician Kenny Blake, and Beatlemania Magic. The Regatta culminates with Pittsburgh’s Official 4th of July Celebration fireworks, widely considered to be one of the Top 10 Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country. And did we mention that all of this fun is free? There is no admission fee and no charge for any of the Regatta’s concerts, acts, activities, or events!


Festival for the Eno
Durham City Park, North Carolina
July 4 – 5, 2014

Festival for the Eno, drums, band, live music, North Carolina, crowd, summer, tents

Festival for the Eno [Image: blog.fmrealty.com]

Looking for fantastic music this Independence Day weekend? Check out the 35th Annual Festival for the Eno in Durham, North Carolina. With over 65 acts on four stages, there’s sure to be something that strikes your fancy. All proceeds of ticket sales go towards funding important conservation of the Eno River Basin. An assortment of local food trucks will be serving up some great bites, and the Sweetwater Beer Garden at the heart of the festival will be happy to pour you a local brew. Be sure to rent a kayak or canoe so you can spend some quality time paddling around on the festival’s namesake! Need a place to crash for the night? Using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for North Carolina State Parks, you can easily rent a campsite or vacation cabin at Eno River State Park.


World Championship of Catfishing & Independence Day Celebration
Pickwick Landing State Park, Tennessee
July 4 – 6, 2014

Catfish, World Championship, Tennessee, fishermen, summer

World Championship of Catfishing [Image: www.tnvacation.com]

Catfish, fireworks, bluegrass, golf. What better way to celebrate Independence Day? Pickwick Landing State Park will present an excellent fireworks display over Pickwick Lake on July 4th. Spend the night at Pickwick Landing’s inn, so you can tee up at the golf course or lounge at the beach bright and early the next day.

Nearby Savannah, Tennessee, also known as “Catfish Capital of the World,” is currently hosting the National Catfish Derby. Through July 5, any catfish caught in the Tennessee River is eligible to win. (Don’t forget to upload photos of your own monster catch onto Pocket Ranger Trophy Case®!) On July 6, the World Championship of Catfishing will have its final weigh-in at Pickwick Landing State Park with cash and prizes awarded to the winner. Not so interested in noodling for your own catfish? Then stick around for the after-party for free catfish and live music. Or grab a lawn chair and head to the 35th Annual Savannah Bluegrass Festival to listen to the best that Tennessee has to offer.


11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival
Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
July 12 – 13, 2014

Toledo Lighthouse, girl, sunglasses, water, Lake Erie, lighthouse

Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival [Image: www.toledoblade.com]

Looking to tour the inside of a 100-year old lighthouse this summer? Head to the 11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival at Maumee Bay State Park! Since Toledo Lighthouse remains active, this festival is one of only two times annually that the lighthouse is open to visitors. Afterwards, visit the Nautical Village arts & crafts show to pick up some lighthouse-inspired souvenirs and try your luck at the silent auction. With over 200 items at the auction, you’re bound to win something! Help yourself to delicious food like brats, homemade fries, shrimp, and funnel cake while listening to Jimmy Buffet-style musical entertainment at the park’s amphitheatre. And while you can’t spend the night in the lighthouse, you can reserve a campsite (or a yurt!) at Maumee Bay State Park.


Bannack Days
Bannack State Park, Montana
July 19 – 20, 2014

Bannack Days, Montana, collage, pioneers, old, horses, gunfight

Bannack Days [Image: blog.rv.net]

A fun-filled weekend celebrating 152 years of history, Bannack Days at Bannack State Park is something you don’t want to miss! Learn how to shoot a black-powder rifle, pan for gold, and hand-dip a souvenir candle. Watch the local blacksmith forge incredible works of art and take a wagon ride along Bannack’s historic main street. Get ready for good eats like ice cream, kettle corn, fry bread, corn on the cob, and fresh lemonade. Throughout both days, there will be plenty of live bluegrass, gospel, and old-time fiddler music. And keep your eyes peeled for a few staged gunfights!


4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival
Glen Elder State Park, Kansas
July 19 – 20, 2014

Wakonda Indian Festival, Native American, dance, feathers, tribal dress, haybale

Wakonda Indian Festival [Image: www.sparkpeople.com]

Dancing, drumming, storytelling: Learn all about Native American culture firsthand at the 4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival at Glen Elder State Park. Waconda Lake was once a spring, believed to hold great healing powers. On the shores of this lake, there will be traditional and contemporary Native American drumming and dances, such as the Hoop Dance and Crow Hop Dance. Stories and legends will be told by master storyteller Ron Brave in the festival’s tipi. Help yourself to delicious Indian tacos, fry bread, and buffalo burgers, and browse the fine silverwork, leatherwork, jewelry, and dreamcatchers on display. Since it’s sure to be a bit warm that day, bring along a bathing suit so you can take a dip in Waconda Lake.


Cross Timbers State Park

Well, everyone, what Dorothy meant to say, when she said: “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” clearly was: “I have a feeling that I’m having a very bizarre dream, and we are in Kansas.” Which we are. Today. At Cross Timbers State Park. In Kansas.

Wizard of Oz Have a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Don’t listen to Dorothy; Kansas is anything but ordinary.
[Image: www.tvtropes.org]

We’re going to keep going with this theme, because Dorothy, inadvertently, perhaps, with her statement, kind of made Kansas’s reputation to be somewhat of an ordinary, typical, run-of-the-mill, shall we say boring place. And we’re going to defy that! Because it is anything but, friends. Especially if you head to Cross Timbers State Park! And play the KS- “What’s Your Mountain?” Challenge! Because what’s more exciting than taking in natural beauty through a really fun scavenger hunt, played on an app? (Technology is so cool, right?)

So, here’s what to expect in the game (and at the park.)

Trees and Trails

Ancient Tree Trail Cross Timbers State Park

Ancient Trees Trail
[Image: www.kdwpt.state.ks.us]

Cross Timbers State Park is a place to enjoy the trails. All of the trails are open to walkers, hikers, backpackers, and other non-motorized modes of transport, like jogging and mountain bikes, except for the Ancient Trees Trail, which is only open to walkers, hikers, and backpackers. Speaking of the Ancient Trees Trail, the Ancient Trees on the Cross Timbers are one of the objectives in your GeoChallenge! They’re near the entrance to the Toronto Point Campground, where you’ll be able to see the gatehouse for the Toronto Point area, and information about these Ancient Trees. Other trails of note include the Oak Ridge, the Blackjack Trail, the Chautauqua Hills, and the Overlook Trail.

Speaking of the Overlook Trail, this 1.25 mile path will lead you to another objective on your challenge. The Dam Overlook, as you might expect, is an overlook with a view. You can find it at the beginning of the Overlook Trail, and you’ll be able to see most of Toronto Lake, which we’ll be talking about next.

Toronto Lake

Toronto Lake Cross Timbers State Park

An aerial view of Toronto Lake.
[Image: www.kdwpt.state.ks.us]

Cross Timbers State Park is located at Toronto Lake. All 1,075 acres of the Cross Timbers (consisting of forested flood plains surrounded by open prairie, hills of oak savannah, and forests) overlook the 2,800-acre Toronto Reservoir. It’s a great place to see diverse wildlife and plants in their natural habitat.

It’s also the place to go fishing at the park. Fish for bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, spotted bass, green sunfish, and more.

The adjacent 4,600-acre Toronto Wildlife Area has forests, grasslands, farmlands, and marshes, and these unique habitats provide homes for animals such as white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, quails, squirrels, rabbits, doves, raccoons, and a variety of songbirds.


Cross Timbers State Park has a lot of campsite options. Camping is available at the following areas: Toronto Point, Holiday Hill, Mann’s Cover, and Woodson Cove. Facilities vary, with some that are able to be reserved (like the ones at Toronto Point.)

The park also boasts homey cabins. They can house six adults, are equipped with a bathroom with a shower, some basic furniture, a stove, fridge, and coffee pot, and more. One is handicapped-accessible.

One of Cross Timbers State Park's cabins, the Sandstone Bluff cabin.

One of Cross Timbers State Park’s cabins, the Sandstone Bluff cabin.
[Image: www.kdwpt.state.ks.us]

With this (read: a whole page’s worth, plus more) much to do, we think we’ve proved that Kansas is anything but boring. (At least Toronto, Kansas. Mainly because of Cross Timbers State Park.)

So, assuming you’re convinced (and especially if you’re not!) head on down (or up) or whatever direction you may be coming in to Cross Timbers State Park! The KS- “What’s Your Mountain?” Challenge awaits!

Nature Conservancy in Kansas Gets $1 Million Donation

[Image: Nature Conservancy Facebook page.]

Image: Nature Conservancy Facebook page

The Nature Conservancy of Kansas has one million reasons to celebrate.

The Wichita Eagle reports that the estate of John and Fran Peterson donated $1 million to the conservancy, which is said to be one of the organization’s largest donations, the largest being $4.8 million.The money will be used for land acquisition.

“We are very excited,” said Rich Bailey, director of philanthropy for the Nature Conservancy in Kansas, said the article.

The article said the Petersons first become involved with the Nature Conservancy in 1989 when they helped support acquiring land at Cheyenne Bottoms. They once again helped acquire land in Logan County for the eventual creation of the Smokey Valley Ranch.

John Peterson worked for the U.S. Treasury Department  and the Department of Defense in Washington. The Kansas native received master’s degree from the University of Kansas. He passed away in 2009. His wife, Fran, also worked for the Treasury Department and was a Texas native. She passed away in 2012.

According to the article, the Nature Conservancy has protected more than 95,000 acres of land and easements in Kansas.

The Petersons also donated $1.2 million to Kentucky University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Music and the School of Dance. [The Wichita Eagle]