- Who's in charge of this trail?
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks administers the Prairie Spirit Trail. You can visit their website here. The site contains lots of information and updates on the trail and Kansas's other state parks.
- Biking means hills and wind. Will I have to deal with those?
You are partly in luck here. The trail is built on an old railbed. Trains have never liked hills, trains running in the 1800s really didn't like hills. So, there is not much in the way of grade. Most of your changes in elevation will be over long periods of time. With the wind, however, you are on your own. For a lot of the trail there is very little in the way of a windbreak. It is worth your time to check this weather condition before leaving for the trail.
- It looks like the trail is covered in gravel, isn't that bumpy?
The trail is crushed limestone which is pretty smooth. (Actually, in the city limits of Ottawa, Garnett and Iola the trail is asphalt paved.) While there is some resistance from the gravel, it is not appreciable.
- How fast will I be going?
This really depends on you. Most cyclists will average between 8 and 12 miles per hour. Mostly closer to the top part of that, although the bottom gets nearer at the end of a long ride. Remember that trail riding is slower than riding on asphalt.
- Um, bathrooms?
Simple. Every trailhead has them. Well, between April and October when all the trailheads are open. The trailhead restrooms in Ottawa and Garnett are open all year. For those winter trips a purchase at a local business will get you permission to use the facilities. It will also encourage those business owners to support the trail and the riders on it.
- I've gone over my handlebars and face-planted. Where can I get some medical attention?
This will come from the local town. As you are riding make note of the mile markers and the roads that you are passing over so that you can help the medical assistance professionals reach you.
- So, my cell phone will work on the trail?
If you must, it most likely will depend on your carrier. I have made calls all along the trail on an AT&T phone.
- I need an expensive bike, right?
Well, you need a bike if you want to ride the trail. Walking is perfectly acceptable. I have seen all types of bikes on the trail, from the cheap-ass Schwinn that I ride to some very expensive recumbents that cost at least 10 times more. Basically ride something that you are going to find comfortable for the distance that you are going. Most people like something that allows them to sit upright over long distances. This is usually a mountain bike or a hybrid.
- What about those trail fees?
Are you kidding me? You pay more for a soda at a movie. Limestone chat doesn't grow on trees. If you live in the area, get the year pass for $12.50. You get 365 days of riding for less than the tape-job on your handlebars. Also worthy of consideration is unless you are within the city limits of Ottawa, Garnett or Iola you are not allowed to use the picnic tables or restrooms either.
- When can I see the various fauna along the trail?
Dawn and dusk seem to be the best times. While there are almost always cows in the fields next to the trail, I have also seen rabbits, raccoons, deer, box turtles, lizards, numerous blue birds and of course squirrels on the trail itself along the route. If you are an early morning rider, the spiders will greet you with numerous strands across the trail.
- Them squirrels is good eatin'. I can shoot one, right?
KDWP does not allow ANY hunting on or from the trail. Their FAQ clearly states that:
Visitors may not have in their possession firearms, bows, slingshots, or any device commonly referred to as an air gun or paintball gun.That said, this should be pretty obvious. The danger of hitting another cyclist should be enough to discourage this type of activity.
- What will I need to take with me?
This mostly depends on how far you are planning on going. There is quite a difference between traveling the entire trail and just going to the next town and back. I would not recommend leaving town without:
- Extra inner tube and patch kit
- Insect Repellant
- Bike Pump
- Cell Phone
- More water
Your milage may vary. At any given time you will be at most 5 miles from town, just plan what you will do if something breaks on you or your bike.
- Who are you and what are you getting out of this?
Surprisingly little. I am just an enthusiast who enjoys the trail. I have taken other trails such as the Katy in Missouri before and was astonished at the lack of information available for this trail. There are not many rail-trails over 20 miles long in the United States and here I was living near one of them. I had lots of questions, mainly concerned with where I could get something to eat. I figured that others would have these same questions, so I taught myself XHTML and CSS and the results are here. Hope that I was a help.
- You've got some information wrong here. How do I get you to fix it?
Since most of the information here is ephemeral, sometimes things can get out of date. If a business closes or changes its hours, let us know at or write to us on our contact page. We will double check any information that you send. Any help keeping the information here up to date is much appreciated.
- I own a business along the trail that might be of use to people on the trail. How do I let them know about it?
There are two ways. First of all, let us know. I frequent the trail and would be happy to check your business out at some time. If it seems that you are correct, I will eventually throw up a page like the ones that are currently up. The second way is that you can help us out by advertising on our site. The space under the map at the left is for sale by the month or by the year. Terms and rates are presented on our advertising page.