Mount Mitchell means many things to many people. For American Indians, it is a sacred hill where ancestors are buried. For the William Mitchell family, it is a place to honor the sacrifices of an abolitionist grandfather and the Connecticut Kansas Colony who helped make Kansas a state free from slavery. For those interested in history, it contains ruts and swales from an old trail that was used by the westernmost route of the Underground Railroad from 1857 to 1861.
Across the road to the north of the Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie park, there is the log cabin farmstead of Captain Mitchell, who with his sister Agnes, sheltered freedom seekers on their perilous journey to freedom in Canada.
Mountain men and fur trappers traveling to and from the West used this same road in the 1820s. In 1842, John Fremont passed over it exploring routes for what would become the first national road to California and Oregon.
Today, visitors to this tallgrass prairie park, seeing the remnants of the old trail, can easily visualize all of the human stories that have transpired in this landscape of grass and sky.
Two and a half miles of walking trails provide access to the park’s remarkably diverse plant community, alive with the songs of meadowlarks and dickcissels. A colorful pageant of wildflowers and grasses delight visitors from March through October.
The park has many species of milkweed, and it has been designated an official Monarch Butterfly Waystation. These fascinating insects can be seen in large numbers during their spring and fall migrations and as residents during the spring and summer.
Fall and winter allow visitors to experience the famous “red grass” of Willa Cather’s prairie childhood. Since the park is ungrazed, in late summer these prairie grasses attain the legendary heights described by early explorers as reaching as high as the heads of their horses.
Come and stand on Mount Mitchell amidst the wildflowers and nesting birds. Listen to the sound of bluestem in the wind. Stand in the swales of the old trail and look out across the prairie to the house where people seeking their freedom from slavery were sheltered. Having done this, you will see why this special place is so important for keeping our history alive and exposing schoolchildren and visitors to the wonders of nature.
The Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie is managed by the Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards, a nonprofit whose members are local residents and friends from across the country.
The Park is open year round, dawn to dusk. Removal of plants and animals from the Park is strictly forbidden.