Chautauqua Hills—Introduction

drawing of outline of this region on Kansas map

Chautauqua Hills--Intro | Chautauqua Hills--Rocks and Minerals
Chautauqua Hills--Places to Visit | Other regions

Download fact sheet on the rocks and minerals of the Chautauqua Hills.

The Chautauqua Hills are a sandstone-capped rolling upland that extends into the Osage Cuestas from the southern Kansas border. Approximately 10 miles wide, these hills extend as far north as Yates Center in Woodson County. Small patches of similar terrain can be found as far north as Leavenworth County.

The Chautauqua Hills formed primarily in the thick sandstones of the Douglas Group. During the Pennsylvanian Period, about 286 million to 320 million years ago, rivers and streams flowed into the sea in this area. Sand and other sediments collected in the estuaries and at the mouths of the rivers in deltas. Over time, the sediments were buried and compacted--the sands became sandstone and the muds became shale. Over millions of years, uplift and erosion exposed the sandstone and shale at the earth's surface. Further erosion has dissected the area into a series of low hills, capped by more resistant sandstone.

Because of rock outcrops in this region, the hills are generally not cultivated but are used instead for pasture. The Verdigris, Fall, and Elk rivers cross the area in narrow valleys walled by sandstone bluffs. Topographic relief in the region is never more than 250 feet.

color photo of sandstone outcrop

Outcrop of typical Chautauqua Hills sandstone at The Hollow, a city park in Sedan, Kansas. This sandstone is part of the Ireland Sandstone Member of the Lawrence Formation.

Many of the hills are covered by stands of black jack oaks, scrub oaks, and other hardwood species. This mix of medium-tall grasslands and scattered stands of deciduous trees is called the Cross Timbers by scientists who map vegetation. In Kansas, the extent of the Cross Timbers is almost identical to the extent of the Chautauqua Hills physiographic region.

Chautauqua Hills--Intro | Chautauqua Hills--Rocks and Minerals
Chautauqua Hills--Places to Visit | Other regions