Cross Trimbers, Toronto Lake, Kansas
An ancient forest in Southeastern Kansas? You bet!

It's call Cross Timbers. where early explorers found it so brushy that travel was difficult. The forest has slow-growing trees—primarily post and blackjack oaks. These scrubby trees grow on sandstone outcrops. A tree 20 feet tall may be over 400 years old!

Cross Timbers grow from Northern Texas, through East-central Oklahoma and into Southeastern Kansas, where the area is also known as the Chautauqua Hills. This woodland is a wonderful wildlife habatat, with deer, coyotes, wild turkey, quail, hawks, rabbits and squirrels. In winter Bald Eagles frequent the area.
copperheads are also occassionally spotted.

These trees have been preserved because they never grew straight nor tall. Scrubby trees were not sought for building by settlers.

The Cross Timbers Nature Trail is on the east side of Toronto Lake, 80 miles east of Wichita, just south of Toronto, Kansas. The trail is a one-mile loop rated moderately difficult. There is a parking lot at the trail's entrance/exit and signs along the trail label some of the older trees for hikers .

More information about this area is also available online:
Natural Kansas/Toronto
Ancient Cross Timbers Project of the University of Arkansas.

trail entry along the trail undergrowth ancient oak
bent oak tree label growth around tree branch weather damaged tree
berries wildflowers fungus lichen
oak leaves fuzzy plant, wet with rain turning leaf rocky trail
new growth, wet with rain sumac turning color downhill toward Toronto Lake
a cave along the path at cave entrance a look back at the cave
more oak leaves sandstone rock with lichen fungus at tree base

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We traveled to Cross Timbers near Toronto Lake in the Chautauqua Hills of Kansas just after the first day of Fall, 2004. It had been a rainy morning, but had begun to clear as I took my hike through these ancient woods. I saw many oak trees, thorns, lichen, fungi, berries, sumac, rock outcropping, a cave, a stream, and glimses of the lake. The only wildlife I saw was one wild turkey, who hopped onto the path and scurried along in front of me, soon out of sight.

We were inspired to visit this forest through the a Legend of the Cross Timbers, written by Linda Geffert of the Electric Cat Cafe, Paxico, Kansas. Her story inspired my drawings, below, of forest sprites, skinks and lizards. I include an excerpt from Linda's work, with her permission.

...On the morning of winter equinox, every Goodly Sprite and thousands of lizards met in the deep reaches of the Cross Timbers. Some still had questions and doubts but the Wise Old Lizards walked among them and answered their questions and quieted their fears.

In the late afternoon when the vote was taken, it was agreed by all to proceed with the plan. Akira addressed the assembly, "My friends, be not sad, but sing your last song and dance your last dance and mark this time as the passing of our NowWorld into the ThenWorld." ...

skink sprite lizard

Legend of the Cross Timbers is $5.00 plus $2.50 shipping and handling.  Those interested may request help via email from Linda Geffert

Illustrations above, inspired by Linda's story, are by Carol Yoho

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All photos © 2004 by Carol Yoho
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