After my travels this year, I think the meadowlark is becoming one of my favorite birds. They're a pretty common sight in the plains, especially as you travel down smaller country roads, where I often see them perched on fenceposts.
So. Picture Stonehenge. You know what stonehenge looks like, right? That ancient thing in England? Big stone slabs arranged in kind of a circular pattern aligned to the path of the sun? So picture that in your mind. Got it? Ok, good. Now replace all the stone slabs with cars. Yes, cars. You heard me. Weird image, right?
Well, what if I told you that image was real? Yes, my children, someone really did recreate Stonehenge in western Nebraska. With cars. Instead of stones.
And it's called Carhenge.
The Black Hills of South Dakota is an incredibly scenic area. There are mountains, and forests, and prairies, and streams, and plenty of wildlife, and spectacular views all over the place. But of all the beautiful places in the Black Hills, I think Spearfish Canyon is one of the most picturesque and has some of the best views.
In Spearfish Canyon, you get to travel along the course of a stream, and marvel as you look up at the tall canyon wall, which can get to be over 1000 feet high in some places. The canyon's also home to some really beautiful waterfalls! Plus, the area is really easy to get to, and easy to explore.
No, you don't have to go all the way to Bolivia to see salt flats. You can find one in Oklahoma.
Salt marshes like this one make up a very important habitat for wildlife, especially migratory birds, which makes the Great Salt Plains a great stop for nature lovers.
But what makes this a really unique experience is that you can go crystal digging. If you dig a small home in a designated area, you'll soon find clusters of selenite crystals than naturally form in the salt flats, and you're allowed to remove them and take them home as a really special souvenir!
This is a duck I saw on the lake at Great Salt Plains State Park in Oklahoma, getting ready to dive underwater. I'm not completely sure on the species; it kind of looks like a merganser, but if any birders out there can help me identify it for sure it would be appreciated! Anyway, there were two of them floating around the lake's surface diving down to look for food on the lakebed. They actually spent more time below water than above - they disappeared for around 10 seconds at a time, then only surfaced for a second or two before they dove back under again. It was really neat to watch them!
Windmills are a pretty iconic sight as you drive through America's farmland. Modern irrigation systems have made them less common than they once were, but there are still plenty out there. And I think they can be quite a beautiful sight. A lone windmill turning in the breeze, standing among the rolling grassy hills, silhouetted against a clear blue sky, maybe with some cows wandering around below it. Conjures a nice image, don't you think?
Usually, however, you just see one windmill at a time. But what if I told you there was a place where you could see dozens of windmills all gathered together? A magical place for antique windmills to go when it's time to retire? Where they spend their golden years in the company of other like-minded windmills, swapping stories about their creaky blades, or reminiscing about the big drought of aught-six?
Well, my friends, that place exists, and if you haven't guessed from the title of this post, it's called the Shattuck Windmill Park.
Alliteration for the win! This is one of my favorite birds at the Kansas City Zoo: a male golden pheasant. Like many birds, golden pheasants have drab-colored females and brightly-colored males. The males use their vibrant feathers to show off and try to impress the female in the hopes that she will choose him as a mate.
Alabaster Caverns, located about 30 miles northeast of Woodward, Oklahoma, is a different sort of cave than the caves most of us think of. The more common caves, the ones we're more familiar with, are limestone caves. They form as water moves through limestone rock, cutting and dissolving away passages and cavities as it goes. The action of water dissolving and redepositing limestone leads to the formation of beautiful cave structures like stalactites and stalagmites, columns, draperies, soda straws, popcorn, and ... bacon? Yeah, bacon.
But there's not a speck of limestone to be found in Alabaster Caverns. Like much of the surrounding countryside, Alabaster Caverns is found within a thick layer of gypsum rock. In fact, that's where the name comes from - alabaster is a type of gypsum. And it is the gypsum that makes this cave so special and unique.
You won't see any of those typical cave formations that you'd expect from a limestone cave, but what you will see is just as impressive and inspiring.
A bit north of Oklahoma's Glass Mountains, just across the Kansas border, are Kansas's Gypsum Hills. They're not quite as colorful as the glass mountains, but make for some lovely roadside scenery nonetheless. You can explore the hills on a short scenic byway leading west from the town of Medicine Lodge. Kansas has a reputation for being flat, but that's clearly not the case!
Hi, I'm Alex! I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting travel experiences, and am happy to share them with you here!