Kansas is in the heart of America. While it might be famous as the fictional home of Dorothy Gale, there are many treasures to be discovered in the state. This state has unique and breathtaking natural wonders, including waterfalls, badlands, and windswept landscapes. If you are ready to explore the natural beauty of the Sunflower State, then pack your bags and hit up these locations.
Cimarron National Grassland – Morton County
The Cimarron National Grassland is the largest public land in the state. The National Forest Service operates over 108,175 acres of the property. After the Dust Bowl-era in Kansas, the federal government started to purchase land to rehabilitate it. It was initially known as the Land Utilization Projects, but later, the property was renamed to the Cimarron National Grassland in the 1960s. This area is now used for water conservation, livestock grazing, wildlife, and recreation. You can see a wide variety of land formations throughout the park, including cottonwood groves, sagebrush, yucca, and rocky cliffs. Depending on the season, some varietal plants and grasses bloom and line along the Cimarron River.
From bird watching to camping, there are plenty of recreation activities for you to enjoy throughout the park. Hiking is another great activity, and you can even get your exercise on the Santa Fe Trail. About 23 miles of the trail travel into the grassland. The Point of Rock is one of the most recognizable spots on the trail. You will need to start at the Eight Mile Corner for your journey. In this spot, you can see where Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado meet. Don’t worry about not finding it. Since 1903, the place is marked with a historic windmill.
If you want to visit a relatively unknown spot, head over to the Tristate Point. During the spring, you can see the yucca blooms across the land. For those traveling in summer, the buffalo come to graze on the gourds and yellow flowers. There are other native animals that you can glimpse in the area, including prairie dogs. The U.S. Forest Service even has signs near Eight Mile Corner to help you find a famous prairie dog town. While most of Cimarron National Grasslands are public lands, there are some privately-owned areas, so it is best to exercise caution throughout the park.
Monument Rocks – Gove County
One of the first National Natural Landmarks designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior is located in Gove County, Kansas. Monument Rocks contains several large chalk formations, and it is home to many fossil discoveries. These massive formations date back over 65 -70 million years ago. At that time, there was a giant sea in the middle of North America. Once the waters receded, the enormous rock formations were left in its place. Today, you can see these natural wonders that reach up to a height of 70 feet in a series of arches and buttes.
“The Keyhole” is a popular spot for tourists. As the name suggests, this structure is a large hole that has been formed in the Niobrara chalk. In addition to the prehistoric past, The Rocks were also a part of mail delivery history. The Butterfield Overland Dispatch Trail used the landmarks to help riders find their direction on the path. If you do decide to visit, the limestone rocks are on private land, but visitors are welcome to tour during daylight hours. Since the stone is soft and delicate, you need to watch your step while visiting them. There is no gift shop nearby, but you can stop by the Keystone Art Gallery, which features Monument Rocks artwork from local artists. Monument Rocks is also listed as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.
Cowley Lake Waterfall – Dexter
According to Yahoo Travel, the #12 Most Beautiful Waterfall is located in Dexter. The 25-foot waterfall is just off the parking lot near Cowley County State Fishing Lake. The public lake has several amenities, including picnic tables and stone fishing docks. If you are looking for the waterfalls, a few signs point out the way. Once at the top of the falls, you will have to hike down to see them. It is not an easy hike, so be prepared for some moderate activity. For those not wanting to hike down, there is a dirt access road that you can take by car.
When you are there, you can see the river stream flow down the rocks into the pool below. Behind the falls, you will get a glimpse of the different layers of the rock bed. The waterfalls have gained in popularity over the years, but on most days, you will have the entire area to yourself. Since a natural river feeds the waterfalls, there are times when the falls will be nothing more than a trickle in the dry season. Make sure to consult the local weather forecast before heading out to the location.
Arikaree Breaks – Cheyenne County
Located in the northern part of Cheyenne County is the Arikaree Breaks. This badlands area is very distinctive with its gullies and ravines in contrast to the flat plains located throughout most of the state. The breaks were carved out by water, and their unique shapes are the result of the wind deposited clay, silt, and sand.
The Arikaree Breaks are about 36 miles long and three miles wide. Since it is the badlands region of the state, you will not find much in vegetation except the yucca and soapweed in the area. However, two species of sage can only be found in this part of Kansas. While several public roads can take you to the breaks, there is still a lot of privately-owned land in the area. Visitors are asked to remain on the roads. You shouldn’t go exploring on off on your own as you might end up in the middle of a cattle grazing area.
The Sunflower State is filled with magnificent natural wonders. Don’t miss these beautiful spots the next time you take a trip to Kansas.