Kansas – Sunflower State in the American Heartland
If any state can be veritably considered the geographical center of the United States it is Kansas. The distance to the Pacific and Atlantic shorelines as well as to the
Canadian and Mexican borders are more and less equal. Kansas is also practically rectangular. Kansas is an important state for the development of US history and impresses
visitors with great plains in the west and forested hills in the east.
In terms of climate, Kansas really contains three different types. The eastern and central parts of the state fall under a humid continental climate with cold winters and hot
summers. The highest amount of rainfall here is in spring and summer. In western Kansas, summers can get extremely hot. Precipitation here is relatively low, at only about 16
inches per year. The western part of the state can get Chinook winds in the winter that bring unusually warm temperatures. The southern portions of the state border to a
subtropical climate with long and hot summers and short, mild winters.
Topographically, Kansas displays a steady climb from east to west. The highest point, Mount Sunflower at 4,039 feet, is situated near the Colorado border.
Historically, Kansas was seized by the United States as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. In the mid-19th century Kansas was part of the Santa Fe Trail with large
quantities of silver, fur, and other goods being transported to Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the Kansas prairies there are still wrecks of old horse wagons visible. In the 1850s,
Kansas became a hotly disputed territory between abolitionists and slaveholders following the Kansas-Nebraska Act, leading to the coining of the phrase “Bleeding Kansas.”
In 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state.
National Parks and Trails
In the 1950s Topeka, Kansas became the center of the nation’s attention with the seminal Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. The National Historic Site in
Topeka today reminds of the civil right struggle. Several National Historic Trails inform about Kansas’ past as Wild Western state and a popular gateway to the Pacific Coast.
Those include the Lewis and Clark, Pony Express, and California National Historic Trails. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills region in eastern Kansas
spans 400,000 square miles. It protects a portion of the typical tallgrass prairie.
Wichita is Kansas’ largest city with some 350,000 inhabitants. It is known as the Air Capital of the World due to the major aircraft manufacturing taking place here.
There are a number of significant attractions in Wichita. Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, include 24 themed gardens. Sedgwick County Zoo is home to 2,500 animals. McConnell Air
Force Base is visited by many thousand tourists per year. Since Wichita is the biggest urban center in Kansas, the greatest variety of accommodation can be found here.
Kansas City, the third largest city of the state, is home to the Huron Indian Cemetery, inaugurated in 1843. It is believed that more than 400 bodies of Native Americans
are buried here though documentation is imprecise. Strawberry Hill Museum gives insight into the past and present of the Croatian immigrants to Kansas. The T-Rex Cafe at the
Legends has animatronics dinosaurs.
Topeka, the state capital, the historical significance of which has already been mentioned, is where the Kansas History Museum & Library is located. Other attractions include
Truckhenge, an art space with stylized wrecks of old trucks, Combat Air Museum, and others.
Located in the southern and central parts of Kansas, the Red Hills are a prairie region also known as Gyp or Gypsum Hills. The name stems from the typical red-colored stone.
The region is a great place for hiking and other outdoor activities. Twin Hills (2708 ft.) and Table Mesa (2643 ft.) are the highest elevations of the region. The Red Hills have
a diverse and rich habitat including rare species such as the prairie-chicken. The landscape is dominated by mixed-grass and sand-sage prairies.
Southwestern Kansas, and especially Dodge City, reminds visitors of the Wild Western past of the region. Cattle drives were the business of the 19th century here. Fort Dodge,
five miles east of the city, is a preserved fortification from the Reconstruction Era. The first wind farm of the state can be visited in Montezuma. The Lee Richardson Zoo in
Garden City is another big attraction.
Broad rolling landscapes dominate the southeastern portion of the state. Fort Scott National Historic Site in Bourbon County protects 20 historic structures, a parade ground,
and five acres of tallgrass prairie. The region fell prey to violence in the civil war era. Numerous wildlife viewing sites are situated across the region which extends to the
famous Ozarks in the very southeastern tip of the state.
Kansas is an historically significant and interesting state that has also preserved significant parts of the once-prevailing typical tallgrass prairie. Both people interested
in the past of the nation as well as nature’s lovers will find their fair share of attractions in Kansas.