Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Backroads

Backroads
Kentucky Backroads Wheat Stubble

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Kentucky's Tallgrass Prairie

I would suspect that most people rarely associate Kentucky with Tallgrass Prairie. I'm originally from the
prairie lands and must admit when I discovered that where I live now was once part of an isolated, yet significant segment of the tallgrass prairie region I was surprised. This area today is mostly farm country and from what  I can tell it is prime farm country. But that farming history has its roots embedded in the once ancient and diverse tallgrass prairies that covered this part of Kentucky.


Today only remnants of Kentucky's prairie remains scattered here and there along old fencerows, railroads, fallow fields, and stretching beside the banks of small streams. The story is much the same across what was at one time perhaps the largest ecosystem in North America.  Once covering over 400,000 square miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, the Tallgrass Prairie (not to be confused with the more westerly short grass prairies) stretched virtually unimpeded through the heartland of a nation. It was characterized by multiple species of grasses that could stand as tall as a man and supported a myriad of


wildlife including millions of the magnificent American Bison, or buffalo as most people call them. Today almost 99 percent of it has vanished having been turned into the breadbasket of the world. The only locations where horizon to horizon vistas of original tallgrass prairie can be found is in Kansas and Oklahoma.


Kentucky's tallgrass region was an isolated area that stretched like a long sideways comma from the western tip of the state across the south central portion. It covered thousands of acres, prime country that the first settlers turned into wheat and corn, soy and tobacco. It still clings to life along the already mentioned isolated remnant locations, yet what can be found still retains that nostalgic connection to a time when the land was wild.


Efforts have been made to restore portions of Kentucky's prairie. Halls Prairie near Auburn is a small patch of about 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. There is also a small patch near Barren River lake. Kentucky's prairie never existed on the large scale that could be found across the plains. It was mostly open fields and patches scattered between wooded areas and along stream banks. Yet collectively it amounted to a significant area that retained it own unique diversity.

Near my home is a fallow field that displays an element of tallgrass mystery.

It is about twenty acres or so, yet within that twenty acres can be found the color and variety of wild prairie. Left alone, it will grow to as high as my shoulders in places. There are prairie flowers in abundance in this small patch. Far from providing that sense of openness that one might expect, it is typical of what Kentucky's prairie lands were like. Please enjoy these few moments exploring Kentucky's Tallgrass Prairie.

Keith

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