The ghostly herds of elk on the Kansas prairie have been gone from eastern Kansas for almost one hundred years.*
Still, their presence is preserved in the name Elk River, a tributary of the Verdigris River in southeastern Kansas. James R. Mead, who wrote Hunting and Trading on the Kansas Plains gave us an eye witness account, describing in rich detail buffalo and elk for the taking on the Kansas prairie between 1859 and 1875. In 1863, Mead, organized a hunting party, which took place near the mouth of the Little Arkansas River, an area that is now the city of Wichita. The hunt of three weeks produced 330 buffalo hides, 3,500 pounds of tallow, a few elk and some antelope skins.
What brings this to mind is a happenstance clicking on the site for the Elk River Hiking Trail. This rugged 15 mile trek over boulders through forest and lake is not a walk in the park. The trail touches Elk City Lake and is off of Highway 160 and near Independence Kansas, For pictures and information check out the page from the Kansas Sampler Foundation.
*The Kansas Wildlife Department maintains a small elk herd at the Maxwell Wildlife Preserve in McPherson County, also reintroducing elk into the Cimarron National Grassland Preserve onto the Ft. Riley Military Reservation.