In east-central Kansas, you’ll find the largest continuous area of tallgrass prairie left in the world - the Flint Hills. It extends nearly 200 miles from the Nebraska border in the north to Oklahoma in the south and is 80 miles wide at its widest point (just south of the Kansas River). Home to over 800 different kinds of wildflowers, the Flint Hills were created because the flint they contain is an extremely hard mineral impervious to millions of years of erosion. Over the last hundred and fifty years, as the surrounding areas and their tallgrasses were slowly but surely tilled under in the name of agriculture, the stubborn flint refused to fall victim to the farmers’ tools and so, miraculously, the tallgrass prairie remains. Today, the buffalo roam (in protected areas) and some deer and antelope still play, but thanks to the flint, much of the prairie exists - beautiful, wild, and unchanged.
Just 20 minutes from Topeka, high atop one of those flint hills, sits a lodge overlooking the wild Kansas prairie with its rolling hills and tall grasses. Grasses, that after eons of waving with the wind, bowing under heavy snows, and stretching for the sun, seem oblivious to time. And almost as if the prairie winds whispered it into existence, East Bank on Mill Creek sits watching over this serene setting.
A sanctuary on the prairie, East Bank on Mill Creek is an event space and resort like no other. Families looking to get away from it all, can unplug and reconnect at the same time. It’s the perfect place for family reunions, weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, and baby/wedding showers. And while it’s ideal for family fun, East Bank on Mill Creek was also designed for corporate events like strategy sessions, team building, and retreats. There’s so much to offer, let’s break it down by taking a tour of this beautiful property.
Guests arrive through the private gated entrance and park in front of the lodge. The lodge is a two-story building waiting patiently on the banks of Mill Creek (yes, the east bank) to welcome her guests from the city. Wood, stone, and iron incorporated into the decor create a rustic, yet homey vibe throughout the lodge. An expanse of large windows along the back wall of the lodge not only affords a close-up view of the tree-lined creek behind it but also of the picturesque sunsets every night. Four bedrooms on the upper floor each offer a king bed and private bathroom. The adjoining hallway spans the width of the lodge and overlooks the spacious chef’s kitchen and gathering room complete with pool table, TV, and comfy couches and chairs arranged for relaxing and easy conversation.
Directly across from the lodge entrance is the pool. An airy pavilion on the south end is the perfect place for a family cookout, complete with a large stone bar, two TV screens, seating, and a barbecue grill. On the north end, an enclosed air-conditioned cabana offers a welcome respite from the Kansas summer heat, along with a restroom and an exercise room. Guests can lounge on a pool chaise under a shady umbrella, read a book, or just take a well-deserved nap. The pool is heated and remains open from the end of March until the end of October.
Just up the hill is the conference center, which features a large conference table, Wi-Fi, three TVs, and breakout areas, making it ideal for corporate events. Keep walking up the hill and you’ll see the amphitheater and events center. This former horse stable has been reimagined and is now the perfect venue for weddings and receptions. Four large glass garage doors can be raised to allow guests to spill onto the open-air patio and amphitheater area, while the flat roof above the events center serves as an outdoor dance floor! Twinkling lights strung from the large, old, stately trees create a magical atmosphere at night.
Venture to the very top of the hill and you’ll find The Cabins. Glamping anyone? Three large buildings house four cabins each. In front of each building is a large fire pit just waiting for the telling of late-night scary stories, or toasting up some s’mores before bedtime. The cabins offer ample room for a variety of guests, from couples on a weekend getaway to rambunctious family reunions. Just a few steps from the cabins is one of two stocked fishing ponds on the property. Fishing, hiking, swimming…oh, and we forgot to mention the tennis and basketball courts. Throw in the fresh country air and the kids won’t be able to keep their eyes open around the bonfire.
East Bank has plenty to offer, but if you feel the need to roam (like the buffalo), the quaint little town of St. Mary’s is just ten minutes away. Try out Froggy’s family restaurant (get the bread pudding), Sugar Creek Country Store, and charming boutiques. Prairiefire Winery and Alma Creamery (famous for their cheese) are other nearby attractions.
Looking for an excuse to check out East Bank on Mill Creek? Make reservations for their Murder Mystery Dinner Theater on April 16th. Or if you’re a whiskey aficionado, plan to attend the Bourbon Tasting on April 29th. To learn more about this hideaway on the hill, or get tickets to these fun events, visit eastbankonmillcreek.com or call 785-256-6567.