Places to Visit—Chalk Monoliths

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color photo of chalk monoliths in area of Castle Rock

Photo by Grace Muilenberg, Kansas Geological Survey.

small drawing of Kansas map with Gove County highlighted in red

Gove County, Kansas

Among the state's most distinctive geologic features are the chalk monoliths of Gove County. Sculpted by erosion, these formations are part of the Smoky Hill Chalk Member of the Niobrara Chalk. Erosion continues to wear away pieces of these monuments, as was demonstrated by the dramatic toppling of Cobra Rock in 1998 and the collapse of Castle Rock's tallest spire following a thunderstorm in July 2001.

color photos showing Castle Rock in 1992, with tall spire on left, and in 2001, without tall spire

Castle Rock before (1992) and after (2001) the toppling of its spire.

The Smoky Hill was the focus of great paleontological activity in the late 1800's, producing fossils of sharks, turtles, fish, mosasaurs (large swimming reptiles), and pterosaurs. These fossils were deposited at the bottom of the large inland sea that covered most of western North America during the Cretaceous (about 80 million years ago). To get to Castle Rock, take the Quinter exit off Interstate 70 and head south for 14 miles on Castle Rock Road. Although Castle Rock is open to the public, visitors should bear in mind that it is located on private property (updated from The Geologic Record, vol. 2.2).

Other places to visit in the Kansas Smoky Hills.

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