Sunday, July 26, 2009
Big Basin -- more than a big hole in the ground
Rolling green slopes, wildflowers. Look familiar? It's not the Flint Hills. It's Big Basin, a sinkhole that is one mile in diameter and 100 feet deep. This geological feature was formed thousands of years ago by naturally dissolving salt and gypsum formations.
Big Bisn Prairie Preserve is located in Clark County 11 miles west of Ashland, then 1 3/4 miles north on U.S. 283 from the U.S. 160 and U.S. 283 junction. This sweeping mixed-grass prairie of the High Plains is where buffalo roam, too.
You'll enter the preserve on the east side of the road by crossing a cattle guard and following a driveway. The first fork to the left takes you to a scenic overlook where you can see a corral below.
Return to the main driveway and continue. The next fork to the right takes you to a hilltop stone marker. You can see that a plaque is missing from this pillar of stones, known as the Indian Living Water Marker. In 1958 the plaque, which included the John 4:10 scripture and a description of the Plains Indians and St. Jacob's Well, was placed here. Vandals felt they needed the plaque more than the pillar.
The most famous landmark in the preserve is St. Jacob's Well. It's at the end of the main driveway by the windmill, a mile and a half from the main entrance. Be careful on the rickety steps but the trek down is worth it. You can't really see the legendary funnel-shaped pond until you're upon it. It's 84-foot in diameter and has never been known to go dry. Legend has it that the well has no bottom, but others say it is 58 feet deep.
Note: You never know where you'll find the buffalo! Try to locate them before you get out of your car.
The southern half of the county is dominated by the Red Hills but as you go further north you'll feel yourself cusping into the High Plains. A rugged site featuring Ogallala mortar bedsis Clark State Fishing Lake in the northern Clark County.
Do you have that Kansas Guidebook for Explorers? It gives directions to the lake and to the Monte Casino Marker 3 miles north of Ashland on N. Dodge off U.S. 160 on the way to the lake.
To "Get Kansas" you've really got to get off the main roads. What a scenic state Kansas is! Get to know all of it.
KE #2 Marci Penner