Tuesday, April 8, 2014
The Kansas Native Plant Society board of Directors holds quarterly meetings in various parts of the state. For the past several years, board members have expressed a desire to visit western portions of the state. Due to continuing drought conditions in that area, holding our fall Annual Wildflower Weekend there has not been promising. We have made arrangements for two days of outings. The outings will be on May 3rd and 4th and are open to all KNPS members as well as interested guests.
We will be visiting the Nature Conservancy's Smoky Valley Ranch on Saturday afternoon, May 3rd. This 16,800 acre ranch is located southwest of Oakley in Logan County. It is a prime example of short-grass prairie and has scenic chalk bluffs and rocky ravines. Native Americans, U.S. Cavalry, Charles Fremont, Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok passed through Smoky Valley Ranch and the Butterfield stage line stopped at a way station located on the ranch. The KNPS directors will hold our spring board meeting at the ranch headquarters in the morning. That afternoon, we will have an opportunity to do botanizing on the ranch.
The following morning, May 4th, we will explore Scott State Park. This 1,020 acre park surrounds the beautiful spring fed Scott State Fishing Lake and hosts a great diversity of plant species. El Cuartelejo ruins, a National Historic Landmark that was the site of the northernmost pueblo in the United States is located within the park as well as the Steele Homestead Museum.
Driving directions to the Smoky Valley Ranch from Oakley:
It will take 30 minutes or more to get to the Smoky Valley Ranch from Oakley. Travel south of Oakley on Highway 83 eleven (11) miles. Head west on Seneca Road seven (7) miles. Turn south again on 370th Road, travel approximately seven (7) miles until you reach the ranch headquarters entrance sign.
Please note: if you do a search for the ranch in Google Maps, the address for the Smoky Valley Ranch that is indicated is not where the headquarters is actually located. Google Maps refers to a mailbox about 5 miles from the headquarters.
Our schedule for May 3:
10:00 am - noon: KNPS board meeting
12:00 -1:00 pm: Lunch near ranch headquarters. You will need to bring your own lunch and water.
1:00 to 1:30 pm: Ranch Manager Matt Bain will provide an introduction to the ranch, discussing the ranch's history, work that the Nature Conservancy is doing there, and management issues.
1:30 to 5:30 pm: We will carpool to sites on the ranch to see the dominant vegetation types, plants, and fauna. Hopefully, we will be able to visit sites associated with chalk bluffs/outcrops, shortgrass/mixed-grass prairie, and riparian habitats.
On May 4th, we will gather at 9:00 AM at Barrel Springs Trout Pond parking area near the south entrance to Lake Scott State Park - just off state route 95. From 9:15 am to 1:00 pm, our tentative plans are to hike the Big Springs Nature Trail and vicinity and the Timber Canyon area, including Suicide Bluffs. Lake Scott is 34 miles south of Oakley, so folks staying in Oakley will need to allow time for the drive. The park is about 14 miles north of Scott City. Entrance to the state park requires an annual park vehicle permit or a $5.00 daily vehicle permit.
Some motels in Oakley and Scott City:
Sleep Inn & Suites
East Hwy 40
Oakley, KS 67748
Annie Oakley Motel
428 Center Ave.
Oakley, KS 67748
1006 Highway 40
Oakley, KS 67748
Best Western El-Quartelejo Inn & Suites
1610 S. Main Street
Scott City, KS 67871