A friend asked me recently when was the best time to visit the Flint Hills. I found it is an impossible question for me to answer. First I said “Early summer when everything is so green! But, fall is great too when the grass is tall and brown. And, winter when the hills are covered in snow, or sometimes even ice as I mentioned in this post. Oh and burn season, now that’s just cool. I think by this point, I had pretty much lost her and finally I said, I can’t tell you the best time to go. I love every season, the hills look so different with each one.
Burn season does hold a special place in the heart of an eastern Kansan. The sight and the smell of burning grass can only mean one thing; spring has arrived in our state. Being in the Flint Hills during this “season” provides a mixture of scenery. Some of the hills are still covered in dead, brown grass awaiting their turn with the fire, others are on fire, billowing smoke high into the air, some are black from a recent burn, while other areas are starting to show new growth through the charred remains of last years grass. It’s quite a sight. And, one I’d surely miss were I ever to leave this area of the country.
The fires are intentionally set and closely watched. They serve multiple purposes; once the old grass has burned off, new healthier grass can grow. This new grass makes the Flint Hills prime grazing land for cattle who come in by the hundreds from as far away as Georgia. The burnings also keep the grassland from becoming a woodland, by keeping young saplings from growing into trees. Without these burns, started centuries ago by Native Americans, these amazing vistas of tall grass wouldn’t exist at all.
I highly recommend a visit to the area during burn season, it’s a sight you’ll not likely forget. And, while your first thought might be “they’re just a bunch of black hills”, take a minute to look around and appreciate the community that bands together each year to protect this region and preserve it, in it’s natural state. Maybe even take another trip back just a few weeks later and marvel at how quickly the new grass grows in and just how green it is.