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Wild Places close to home
Author explores The Last Wild Places of Kansas
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George Frazier is the author of The Last Wild Places of Kansas, published by the University Press of Kansas. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

George Frazier says his new book, “The Last Wild Places of Kansas,” isn’t a guide, but it may lead readers to explore some places not far from home that they never heard of. The University of Press of Kansas, which published the book, calls is “the ultimate wild lands road trip book for exploring Kansas.”
It is available in bookstores across Kansas, and online at Amazon:
Frazier’s definition of “wild places” is “natural places you can fall in love with, places of passion, or pilgrimage.” He spent years exploring the Sunflower state by car, canoe and on foot.
A software developer who lives in Lawrence, Frazier saw many of his nature-loving friends leave Kansas for “places like Boulder, Moab, Asheville, Seattle – places closer to real wilderness.” They don’t know what they’re missing.
“You have to find access and you might need to adjust the way you look at Kansas,” he suggested.
“I wrote the book for people in Kansas who want to understand our state’s remaining wild places and how they fit into our rich environmental history. It’s not a guide, and it’s not an academic work – but it addresses some common and confusing issues many of us, who want to understand natural Kansas, face.”
Black-footed ferrets, river otters and bison were once common in Kansas. Frazier writes about efforts to bring parts of Kansas back to “pre-settlement quality” is areas such as Ted Turner’s Z-Bar Ranch.
“Whatever you think of Ted Turner, they’re doing really cool things on that ranch,” Frazier said. “A lot of people have the vision of re-wilding the state.”
Private landowners who have taken an interest is preserving the state’s wild places are proud of their stewardship and often accommodating to visitors, Frazier said. But if a reader feels inspired to explore a bat cave or pick pawpaws on private land, “ask permission first.” The book gives some suggestions on how to do that.
“Because Kansas has so little public land – only 2 percent of our acreage, the least in America – many of us have had very little personal experience of all but a few really well known parks and wild places. My book covers many of the lesser known sites – many on private property,” he said.
Great Bend readers may have to drive a couple of hours, but there are several locations in his book that Frazier said would be great for day trips or “staycations,” in particular the Gypsum Hills in Comanche County.
“I stayed in Great Bend many nights,” Frazier said, noting its central location in the state and on the Arkansas River. “I kind of used it as a kind of jumping off point to visit the Gyp Hills.
“One of several ‘badlands’ in the state, the Gyp Hills – or Red Hills – are one of the least visited bioregions in Kansas, but among the most beautiful and worth the trip. They start roughly one hour’s drive south of Great Bend,” he said.
“I also tell the story of George Sibley’s journey through Kansas to create the original Santa Fe Trail route. Incredibly, Sibley’s journals were never successfully delivered to Washington, and only first published in the 1960s. He tells of the hardships of central and western Kansas – especially with regards to the lack of water. He warned against the very practices which would eventually lead to the Dustbowl in the 1930s, and the founding of Cimarron National Grassland in southwest Kansas.”
The book is 212 pages, with index and bibliography. There are only a few photographs, but Frazier’s shots of Cedar Canyon in Logan County or the Red Hills near Schwarz Canyon in Comanche County may cause readers to say, “Wow, that’s in Kansas?” and venture out with their own cameras.
Frazier writes, “Get outside and hoof it, comb the back country, push aside the garbage and delve deep, discover your own places. If there’s a prairie mound, or a pawpaw patch, or a great blue heron rookery that you’ve always wanted to check out, get permission and explore it. Now is the time, while you’re still a kid, while your kids are still kids, while your knees still have a few chunks of good cartilage, while your artificial hip still has a few good years left on it. No excuses, OK?”