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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Trip to the Pyramids: Kansas Staycation

We took a trip to the Pyramids. And we didn't even have to pull our passports out of the safety deposit box. In fact, we didn't leave the state.

Contrary to those who think Kansas is a "flyover" state or who believe it is simply a boring, flat landscape on the way to Colorado, our state offers a diverse topography. Drive through the Flint Hills on a spring day and enjoy a rolling green carpet of native grasslands undulating over the gentle rises. Travel west of Medicine Lodge and experience the Gyp Hills, also known as the Red Hills, a nod to the iron oxide or rust in the red-tinged soil. They are the rolling hills, mesas, canyons and buttes of central Kansas.
The Chalk Pyramids -- or Monument Rocks -- rise out of the western Kansas prairie. On more than one occasion, I've longingly looked at the sign off of I-70, pointing south toward Monument Rocks. But we've always been on our way to somewhere else or hurrying to get home, so the big brown highway sign soon faded away in our rearview mirror.

The Kansas Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker group took a Discover Kansas trip to Scott County the final weekend of April. (More on that in this post.) But our hosts - Millie Dearden and Jim & Eilene Minnix - also included a trip to Monument Rocks. We traveled up US-83 and then bounced along gravel roads to the site in the middle of a pasture in western Gove County. 
I'm so glad our hosts made a little time in the schedule for us to travel to this hidden Kansas treasure. Seeing how these formations towered over us and up toward the clear blue Kansas sky filled me with awe of God's creative hand. 
In 2007, the Kansas Sampler Foundation named Monument Rocks as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas. The 70-feet-tall sedimentary formation of Niobrara Chalk were created 80 million years ago when the area was part of a vast inland sea. The site was the first National Natural Landmark designated by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1968.
They were created during the Cretaceous Period of geologic history when the area was covered by the Niobrara seaway, which extended from the present day Gulf of Mexico north through Canada.
When the sea evaporated, it left behind fossilized sea organisms that became chalk deposits. Monument Rocks, as well as nearby Castle Rock, and numerous sandstone bluffs in the area are today collectively known as the “Badlands of Kansas.”
Many of the fossils discovered in Kansas have been unearthed from these chalk beds. The material was perfect for trapping and preserving the remains of animals that lived in that ocean, such as fish, turtles, sharks, swimming reptiles called mossasaurs and plesiosaurs, swimming birds, gliding reptiles called pterosaurs, as well as invertebrate animals such as giant clams. Probably the best-known fossil from these beds is the famous "fish-within-a-fish" on display at the Sternberg Museum in Hays. (More on the Sternberg Museum in an upcoming blog post.)
The site was first noted by explorers when John C. Fremont made his famous expeditions in the 1840’s. Later, when the Smoky Hill Trail was blazed through the area to the Colorado Gold fields in the 1860s, pioneers were also, no doubt, amazed by the towering formations sitting quietly on the mostly unbroken plains.
From the Legends of America website
One of the most photographed locations at Monument Rocks is the "Keyhole" or "Keyhole Arch."  Folklore has that this arch started to form many years ago after someone started shooting at the rocks and a bullet went through a thin part of the formations starting what would eventually erode to this  arch formation.
Seeing Monument Rocks has been on my bucket list. But I still want to make another trip and witness them at sunrise and sunset.
We've already been talking about how to make that happen.
The formation below is called the camel. Can you see it?
You can if you travel off of I-70 and along the back roads of this wonderful state I call home!
Even though it's been a few weeks since we toured Monument Rocks, it's a great idea for a summer Staycation in Kansas. See more ideas for Kansas Staycations in upcoming blog posts!


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Kim! I had no idea that Monument Rocks existed! The last time I drove the whole way across Kansas was in 1988, on Route 70, but I wasn't paying attention to such things then. My last two trips were only as far as Wichita/Hesston.

    1. I would definitely like to go again and try photos at sunset and then the next morning at sunrise.