Guidebook—Geology of the Kanopolis Lake Area

Next Page | Previous Page

Road Log

Kanopolis Lake Area Field Trip Route—This road log begins and ends at the Langley Point Group Shelter in Kanopolis State Park, elevation 1500 feet. Total elapsed mileage between stops is shown for each entry on the road log. The distance from one feature to the next is shown by the mileage figure in parenthesis.

Total Mileage Point-to-point Mileage
0.0Reset trip odometers to zero and proceed south.(0.1)
0.1Concretionary sandstone in the Kiowa Formation protrudes from the ground on both sides of the road.(0.2)
0.3Langley Point Road. Turn left (east) and pass pay station.(0.4)
0.7Pass over southern extension of Kanopolis Dam.(0.3)
1.0Junction of Langley Point Road and Kansas Highway 141. Turn left (north) on K-141 highway and proceed along the top of Kanopolis Dam. Normal lake elevation is 1459 feet and the elevation of the Smoky Hill River below the dam is 1410 feet. Kanopolis Lake was built in 1948 on the Smoky Hill River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, making it the oldest of the major Corps reservoirs in the state. The dam is three miles long and 131 feet above the stream bed. The outlet tunnel is 14 feet in diameter and 2443 feet long. The dam and lake are named for the small town of Kanopolis to the northwest. The name Kanopolis comes from combining the Greek word for city ("polis") with the "Kan" of Kansas. Kanopolis formed around Fort Harker in the 1860's.(2.5)
3.5Venango Road. Turn left (west).(0.3)
3.8Curve right onto Horsethief Road.(0.4)
4.2Pass pay station for Kanopolis State Park.(0.1)
4.3Kanopolis State Park office.(0.5)
4.8Curve to north.(1.0)
5.8"T" intersection in middle of prairie dog town, turn right (east).(0.6)
6.4Turn left (west) at sign for Horsethief Canyon. This hill is capped by the Dakota Formation. The elevation is 1595 feet.(0.2)
6.6Sandstone in the Kiowa Formation is exposed in this draw and a small cave is visible up the draw to the right.(0.2)
6.8Turn right at the restroom and enter parking lot.(0.2)

STOP 1. Horsethief Area. From here we will hike south along the shore and look at shale and sandstone in the Kiowa Formation. The thick sandstone body that crops out along the shoreline of Kanopolis Lake in this area has been interpreted as an offshore marine barrier bar. Shallow marine conditions are suggested by ripple marks, which are visible here, and burrows from invertebrate animals that lived in these shallow waters. This sandstone outcrop is characteristic in thickness and lateral extent of sandstone bodies in the subsurface that are major conduits of ground water.

Where our hike ends, barite roses have weathered out of the sandstone and can be collected at the water's edge. Sand-barite rosettes (barium sulfate) are not scattered uniformly throughout the sandstone, but form in clusters or groups. Their resistance to erosion causes them to protrude above the weathered surface of the sandstone.

Native American petroglyphs have been carved into the sandstone that forms the bluff across the lake to the northwest. Because these sandstones are soft and easily eroded, the area, called Inscription Rock, is now off-limits to most visitation.

Trailheads to Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail and the Horsethief Canyon Trail are 0.2 mile north along the gravel road. Markers along the Buffalo Track Canyon Trail correspond to stops in a trail guide provided by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Fragments of leaf fossils can be found in some of the tightly cemented sandstone that weathers out of slopes along the trail.

Total Mileage Point-to-point Mileage
0.0After STOP 1, zero out odometers and backtrack to K-141.(1.3)
1.3Beavers have built a series of dams in the small stream on the right (west).(2.0)
3.3K-141. Turn left (north) passing over sand and gravel deposits (known as a terrace) left by the Smoky Hill River when it flowed at a higher level during the Ice Ages, about 250,000 years ago.(0.2)
3.5To the left (west) are sand and gravel pits in Smoky Hill River terrace deposits.(1.1)
4.6Climb through hills formed in the Kiowa Formation.(0.7)
5.3These uplands are formed in the Dakota Formation.(4.0)
9.3Avenue K. Turn left (west) following a sign pointing the way to Mushroom Rock State Park.(0.5)
9.8The big blue water storage tank to the north belongs to the Post Rock Rural Water District.(1.5)
11.3Continue west. The road to the north leads 1 mile to Carneiro. This town bears the Spanish name for "sheep" and was once a important shipping point for sheep on the Union Pacific. Carneiro is the site of Alum Creek Station on the Smoky Hill Trail, an early road to the Colorado gold strikes and later a stage route between Kansas City and Denver. This stretch of the trail was also a military trail connecting Fort Riley with Fort Harker in Kanopolis and Fort Larned on the Santa Fe Trail.(0.5)

STOP 2. Mushroom Rock State Park. This will be our lunch stop. This is also the smallest state park in Kansas. Numerous sandstone concretions are found here on both sides of the road. These sandstone concretions occur in the lower part of the Dakota Formation or upper Kiowa Formation. The concretions represent local features within the sandstone where the sand grains have been cemented together by lime (calcium carbonate) carried in solution and deposited by circulating ground water sometime after the sandstone was deposited. The lime cement was deposited concentrically and grew outward from a nucleus. During the process of weathering and erosion, the softer sandstone has been removed, leaving behind the firmly cemented concretions. These hard, dense, light gray sandstones are locally termed "quartzite." This "quartzite" is a sedimentary rock. The term "quartzite" is also given to a metamorphic rock that was originally composed of sandstone, but, through heat and pressure, was changed into a much harder, denser rock. The pink boulders that dot the landscape of northeastern Kansas are called Sioux quartzite and are the metamorphic form of the rock. This sedimentary "quartzite" sandstone is mined today in a quarry south of Lincoln, and has been mined in the past at other locations in central Kansas. Because it is hard, it is a valuable construction material and was used for rip rap on Kanopolis Dam. In the portion of the park south of the road is Pulpit Rock, a concretion that stands on a softer sandstone pedestal.

color photo of dark-brown flat-topped rounded rock atop a lighter colored stone base

Pulpit Rock at Mushroom Rock State Park.

This guidebook is also available in print form as Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2003-52, from KGS Publications Sales office, 785-864-3965.

Unless noted otherwise, illustrations by Jennifer Sims, Kansas Geological Survey; photographs by John Charlton, Kansas Geological Survey. Text by Jim McCauley, Bob Sawin, Rex Buchanan, and Liz Brosius, Kansas Geological Survey.

Field Trips | Next Page | Previous Page