The Chalk Pyramids – Scott City, KS

We’ve often heard that because of the flatness of the Sunflower State and the monotony of driving through it, it’s best to just breeze through and be done with it.  And the fact that we’re traversing Tornado Alley can produce some anxiety, too.  But like every state in our great nation, there are many things to see and do if you just get off the main routes and look for them.

It’s true that the great western plains of Kansas consist of seemingly endless stretches of flatness, but did you know that the state is actually ranked as the 7th (with Florida being #1) flattest state?  Florida also ranked first in the highest average number of tornadoes per 10,000 square miles – Kansas comes in at #2.

Monument Rocks
The long gravel road to Monument Rocks

Several times we’ve been asked questions such as, “What are you going to do in Kansas”? Heck, we don’t know, but we’re here to find out!  With a constant eye to the sky we’ll be exploring the state for the next 3 weeks or so.  Some suggestions from one of our followers, aptly named Dorothy, will get us started (thank you, Dorothy).  Plus, John and Pam gave us a heads-up about some cool rocks we had to investigate.  With that, and some of our own research, off we go across the 41st state of our adventure!

Outcroppings on Western Kansas
A dramatic outcropping

Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and called “the badlands of Kansas”, is an area of chalk bluffs, chalk flats and chalk pinnacles.  Several outcroppings of these features from the Cretaceous Period, scattered where Niobrara Chalk and Dakota Sandstone are exposed, made for a dramatic display as we approached from the west.


Monument Rocks

Eighty million years ago this region was an open ocean brimming with calcium-shelled microscopic animals (foraminera), giant oysters, sharks, bony fish, and reptiles swimming and flying overhead.

One of the best-known of these formations is the one called Monument Rocks, sometimes referred to as the Chalk Pyramids.  It is officially recognized by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark.  These chalk formations tower above the surrounding prairie, sculpted over hundreds of thousands of years via erosion by the waters of the Smoky Hill River.

Monument Rocks
Tea Kettle rock behind me
Eye of the needle- Monument Rocks
Eye of the needle

Some new-to-me feathered friends were also out there enjoying the badlands, posing and just waiting for me to snap their picture.  So far, birding has been surprisingly good in Kansas!

Keeping its distance, the pronghorn was curious about our presence.


Since Monument Rocks are on private rangeland, we also saw some man-made structures dotting the prairie.  But thanks to the landowners, the rocks are open to the public for closer inspection.

Monument Rocks

We were the only ones around on the morning of our visit, so we had ample time by ourselves to check them out.  We thought these amazing formations were definitely worth the drive!



  1. The thing I remember about Kansas is the wound, Mona Liza. I loved the way that the grasslands were in constant motion. Every so often, a dirt devil would pop up out of nowhere and swirl skyward. Loved it!


  2. Thank you for sharing about these formations. There are so many beautiful and interesting places that most people miss. Love the photo with the shadow!

  3. What a neat surprise out in the middle of nowhere! That looks like a horned lark on the right…I just recently saw my first one of those too, in Colorado. How neat you got a decent photo of a pronghorn! We are always driving with nowhere to pull off when I see them!

  4. Every state has something to offer … agreed that you have to simply look for them … and take your time doing so. Tea Kettle Rock could well be called Elephant Rock.

  5. Glad you went to visit the Kansas Badlands. Definitely not what one thinks of when in Kansas but a cool place. I like that you brought your car up to the arch or eye of the needle. That opening is what was on the AAA book for Kansas that got me wondering where this was and led to our discovery of the Badlands! It’s fun to explore states where few stop. We did the same thing in ND. A neat state few ever visit.

  6. Well, if anyone is going to find the interesting things to do in the middle of Kansas, it’s going to be you two! That Tea Kettle Rock formation is very cool. And I love the burrowing owl! We’ve not yet seen one in the wild.

  7. When I think Kansas, I think corn. I never knew there was such a beautiful part of Kansas.

  8. I must admit to being someone who thought you should just drive through Kansas. Leave it to the two of you to find some exciting places to visit. I love the little burrowing owls. I used to have three of them waiting to say good morning to me in Tempe when I went to school. We then saw them again at Cibola NWR. They are adorable. Those rock formations are very cool.

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