Sandstone, Limestone & fossils in the Smoky Hills
Castle Rock Badlands in western
The Smoky Hills of
western Kansas contain outcroppings of several types of stone from the
Cretaceous Period. The region is mostly relatively flat, making the scattered
locations where Niobrara Chalk and Dakota Sandstone are exposed more dramatic.
Most of the interesting features lie within a few miles of the Smoky Hill
Another deposit from
the Cretaceous, Greenhorn Limestone, has provided the building material
used to create many of the region's most interesting buildings, including
the Cathedral of the Plains and the Garden of Eden. The limestone is also
used to make the post rocks that help give the region much of its character.
The Dakota Sandstone
is the oldest. It was form from sediment from rivers emptying into the
seas that covered western Kansas. The younger Greenhorn Limestone, and
youngest (70-80 million years) Niobrara Chalk were formed by sediment in
deeper portions of the sea. Both have given up many interesting fossils,
but the Chalk made of the shells of uncounted trillions of single cell
golden brown algae provide some of the worlds most spectacular fossils.
Learn more about the
geology of Kansas at the United
States Geological Survey and from Kansas
Rock Badlands is about 12 miles south of I-70 between Quinter
and Collyer, Kansas. The chalk formation is fragile and may not
last many more years. The tallest spire fell following a thunderstorm in
2001. The badlands area just south of Castle Rock is even more interesting.
Pyramids or Monument Rocks are names for the same group of rock
outcroppings, between Oakley and Scott City in western Kansas.
The 70 feet tall sedimentary formations of Niobrara Chalk were created
80 million years ago when this area was part of a vast inland sea.
|Like the better known
and larger Chalk Pyramids (or Monument
Rocks) the Little Pyramids north
of Scott City, Kansas are sedimentary formations of Niobrara Chalk.
Bluffs are the most striking feature of Cedar Bluffs State Park
south of Ogallah, Kansas. The 100 feet tall limestone cliffs on
the south side of Cedar Bluffs Reservoir are stunning, particularly near
sun rise or sunset.
City near Minneapolis, Kansas is a tiny park which contains
about 200 huge Dakota sandstone concretions. The spheres are up to 27 feet
in diameter and you are encouraged to climb on them and do pretty much
whatever you want. They claim that there is no place else in the world
with so many huge concretions.
Rock State Park near Marquette, Kansas has Dakota sandstone
concretions much like Rock City, but here most are not nearly as exposed.
The resulting combination of rocks sometimes have a mushroom shape. The
unusual shapes caught the imaginations of the Native Americans and pioneers,
some of whom have left graffiti in the softer sandstone.
|Located in a 1916
limestone church, the Keystone Gallery
between Scott City and Oakley, Kansas is a combination of
art gallery, fossil museum and souvenir shop. The Bonner family has been
fossil hunting since 1928 and are available to lead fossil hunting &
camping tours in a 1949 Chevy Suburban.
Oakley, Kansas shares a building with the community
library. The museum is free (donations) and has a number of interesting
large fossils from the area, many old tools, mineral specimens and folk
of Kansas Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center
in Lawrence, Kansas offers 4 floors (1 up and 2 down) of natural
history exhibits in a hundred year old limestone building.
Museum of Natural History at Fort Hays State University in Hays,
Kansas displays a small portion of the University's 3,750,000 specimens
and recreates the Kansas of 70,000,000 years ago with life size displays.
Geology Museum at Emporia Sate University in Emporia, Kansas
is free, and open whenever the school is in session. About 50 cases of
geology specimens, fossil displays, and Native American artifacts that
are well laid out and have interesting and informative descriptions.
Meteorite Museum is located within the region where the Brenham
Meteorite is found, midway between Haviland and Greensburg, Kansas. The
museum and gift shop occupy just one modest room, but when the owner, Don
Stimpson started showing me exhibits and demonstrations, 90 minutes were
gone before I knew it.
The Kansas Meteorite
Museum is 2 miles south of US-54, between Haviland and Greensburg, Kansas.
|The free El
Quartelejo Museum in Scott City, Kansas has exhibits about
the Monument Rocks and the area's fossil
history. Children can "dig" for fossils in a sandbox
Travel Index page Kansas Travel &
by Keith Stokes