Aero-explorers: flying the Flint Hills of Kansas
Aero Views: getting started

We were determined to see the spring-green Flint Hills of Kansas from the air. On June 22, 2004 we left from Forbes Field in Topeka in a four-seat airplane, flying southwest along the eastern edge of the Flint Hills. We flew as far as Strong City in Chase County, then turned back northeast and headed for home. Our pilot was Chad Landes and our traveling companion was Bob Keith.

See also: Flint Hills from the Ground

— Select a photo below to see the larger version —

Our light aircraft. Left to right: Chad, Max, Carol, Bob Area just southwest of Topeka Chad commanded the cockpit, but Max riding shotgun Forbes Field: our point of departure and return

Heading West from Topeka
This land was once the bottom of a vast inland sea. The flight was our opportunity to see the space from above; to try to imagine what enormous prehistoric fish might have seen below those vast waters. We flew over Dover, KS, and spotted the farm along the Waukarusa River where our friend Bob used to live. Bob and I sat in the back seat. Chad and Max were in front.

Small town Kansas This farm land belongs to Bob, our friend and fellow-adventurer Our friend, Bob Pilot Chad Landis Max rides up front

Tax Dollars at Work

Housing thinned out quickly, but an occassional road or power lines stretched through the area — evidence of tax dollars at work.

Kansas turnpike stretchs southwest toward Wichita A road below us Highway, with truck A bend in the road
Power lines 1 Power lines 2 Power lines 3

Farms & Fields
The Flint Hills are primarily grassland. It is the best feed in the United States for beef cattle, and ranchers from Texas, Oklahoma, and other states send their cattle to Kansas for summer grazing. The rocks in these hills sits very near the surface, making land impossible to plow for raising crops. However, in the spaces east of the outcropping we spotted farms with crops planted in fields.

Sewed field
Farm 1Farm 2This hugh barn belongs to Spring Hill Ranch at the national Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
Farm field More crops Abandoned stone house

Abundance of Water
Spring, just ended, had been extraordinarily wet—after several years of drought conditions. Most farms had full ponds. There were also rivers and lakes dotting the landscape. Some fields had water standing in them.

Lake Standing water in a field Farm pond Bend in a river Pond 1
Pond 2Pond 3Pond 4

My favorite geographical details in this landscape were the draws and cuts snaking across rolling hillsides. Trees in the Flint Hills are scrubby. It is difficult for them to grow on top of rock.
Cattle grazing on rich Flint Hills grassesDraw 1
Draw 2
Draw 3
Natural ridges in the land Where there are trees, there is water
Draw 4
Draw 5

Very Green
Everything was covered in a velvety-soft lush green of late Spring.

Property corner Grassland Row of treesTrees prospering
Typical Flint Hills landscape Dots of cedars Lush greenry tree grove, close up

Rolling Landscape
The most beautiful aspect of the Flint Hills are its undulations, its rolls, and the sweeping grandeur of its vista. Those who find a starkness in this area are not looking at it closely.

Rolls 1 Rolls 2 Rolls 3
Water snakes into a pond Rock is always close to the surface in the Flint HillsAncient ocean floor
ancient ocean floor 2

Long Views

We departed Topeka at 7:00 AM and returned about 8:15 AM. Our cruising altitude varied, with an upper limit of about 1000 feet. In places we were very much closer to the ground. Our average speed was 110 mph. Occassionally the hills rose toward us. Occassionally Chad, our pilot, would bank so we could admire particulars of the landscape. The farthest point southwest we visited was Strong City, in Chase County: the heart of the Flint Hills.

Our entire ride was S - m - o - o -t -h !

A look at the horizon The hills rise to meet us A view of many miles A shot from a high spot Undulating prairie hills
Country road Landscape to the east At Stong City we turned back A view to the horizon

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To read an excellent short essay about the
effects of seeing the Flint Hills, visit Flyover People,

For an up-close
and personal photographic view of the Flint Hills, visit
the Flint Hills site of photographer Don Palmer

All photos © 2004 by Carol Yoho
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