Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover National Historical Site in West Branch, Iowa

A sign featuring the McDonald’s and Kum & Go businesses marks I-80 highway on the southern border of the restored 81-acre Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa. To the left is a West Branch water tower. A few miles farther east in Walcott is the Iowa 80, the world’s largest Truck Stop.

Today, I drove through the Flint Hills of Kansas.  I do this often enough that I often forget to appreciate that this section of grassland is rare and beautiful.  (In other words, I’m thinking impatiently “Are we there yet?”) The Flint Hills area is one of the few remnants of the vast Tallgrass Prairie that once covered the midsection of North America.  Ninety-eight percent of the great Tallgrass Prairie is now gone, plowed under for crops. Tallgrass prairie soil is very fertile, and some parts of the prairie have some of the deepest topsoil ever recorded.  The Flint Hills were spared the plow, because the ground is so rocky and hard to cultivate. Part of the Flint Hills is now a national preserve. (See link below.)

On a driving trip in June, my husband and I visited another remnant of Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa.  The restored 81-acre prairie is just north of I-80 in the eastern part of Iowa.  Nearby is the grave site of Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou.  A block away is Hoover’s birthplace cottage, which is in its original location. There are also several 19th century buildings, including houses, a school, Quaker meeting house and a blacksmith shop.

Black-eyed susan wildflowers are among the dozens of wildflowers that were re-introduced to the restored Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa.

Coneflowers sway in the wind in the restored Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa. In the background are orange milkweed plants, also known as butterfly weed.

At the top is the small cottage where Herbert Hoover was born in 1874 in West Branch, Iowa. At the bottom are the graves of Hoover and his wife Lou, which are near the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The graves are about a block from the Hoover birthplace cottage.

About the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas.

Plants at the Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa.

About the Tallgrass Prairie.

Iowa 80, world’s Largest Truck Stop.

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5 Comments

Filed under Environment, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Presidents, Travel

5 responses to “Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover National Historical Site in West Branch, Iowa

  1. I’m afraid that although I was born in Nebraska, I only appreciated the prairie if it involved a little house and Plum Creek. It’s only now that I can appreciate the tall grasses and the carpet of wildflowers. Beautiful!

  2. Nice photos. That first one makes me nervous. Are you trying to break into my exclusive sign genre? 🙂

    I’m grateful for posts like these because there is still a lot of the U.S. that I’ve never visited. One day I hope to go on a cross-country trip and visit most of the states where I’ve never been. Until then your blog remains my tour guide.

    For all of the technological advances of the last century, we still move the bulk of our goods around by truck. It will probably stay that way for some time, at least until they invent the transporter from Star Trek.

  3. Kelly

    Catherine –

    I am currently taking a graduate course at the University of Iowa on public history and we are doing a window display about the 2008 flood here in Iowa City. One of our display’s elements revolves around how the elimation of prairies leads to an increased number of floods. I found the fabulous pictures you took (above) and was wondering if we could obtain your permission to use the photo you have captioned “Black-eyed susan wildflowers are among the dozens of wildflowers that were re-introduced to the restored Tallgrass Prairie at the Herbert Hoover Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa.” for our representation of prairie. We would, of course, give you credit. Thank you very much for your consideration.

    Kelly

  4. “Ninety-eight percent of the great Tallgrass Prairie is now gone, plowed under for crops.”

    I can’t help but wonder about the long-term effects of this.

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