The Kansas badlands in the western part of the state are an unexpected surprise. If you travel across Kansas on Interstate 70, you have no inkling these geologic wonders lie below the gently rolling landscape.
These badlands are remnants of eroded Niobrara limestone and chalk deposits formed by the Western Interior Seaway. During the middle and late Cretaceous, this seaway extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. So, all along the shores of the seaway are similar eroded formations.
We photographed two areas of exposed badlands: Little Jerusalem State Park and Monument Rocks (also called the Chalk Pyramids). They were a short drive from Oakley, which is right on Interstate 70. Here are some photos from each location:
Monument Rocks is about 28 miles southeast of Oakley, Kansas. What is especially nice about this Kansas badland’s location is that you can freely walk among the walls and towers. The formations sit atop the local land surface. Here is more information about these formations, along with their location: https://www.legendsofamerica.com/ks-monumentrocks/.
The best time to visit Monument Rocks is at sunrise or sunset. The more picturesque formations run north/south, especially the Keyhole, a window eroded through one of the rock walls.
Little Jerusalem State Park
Little Jerusalem State Park is the newest Kansas State Park. It is administerd by the Nature Conservancy and protects over 220 acres of Kansas badlands. Unfortunately, unlike Monument Rocks, visitors may not walk freely among the formations. The formations lie below the surrounding land surface. In order to climb down into the badlands, visitors must make arrangements with the Nature Conservancy and schedule a guided tour. Here is more information about the site and directions to find it: https://ksoutdoors.com/State-Parks/Locations/Little-Jerusalem-Badlands.
Historic Lake Scott State Park
A good place to camp while visiting the Kansas badlands is Lake Scott State Park. The park is a hidden oasis within Ladder Creek Canyon. In fact, visitors have no inkling there is a canyon until the road curves to the left and quickly drops to the canyon floor. The park is off US Highway 83, between Oakley and Scott City.
Lake Scott State Park encompasses the sandstone bluffs on either side of the lake, as well as a pioneer farmstead. Plus, there is a pueblo, El Cuartelejo, built in the 1600s by refugees from the Taos Pueblo. It is the only Indian pueblo in Kansas. In fact, it is the northern most pueblo in North America. Here are a few photos from the park:
Here are some more photographs of badlands from other parts of the country. Take a look:
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