Flint Hills—Places to Visit

drawing of outline of this region on Kansas map

Flint Hills--Intro | Flint Hills--Rocks and Minerals
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Download fact sheet on the rocks and minerals of the Flint Hills.

Chase County Courthouse. Located in Cottonwood Falls, the Chase County Courthouse is the oldest county courthouse still in use in Kansas. Completed in 1873, the courthouse is a striking example of the French Renaissance architectural style and a good place to get a look at the Cottonwood Limestone Member (of the Beattie Limestone), which was quarried nearby. The Cottonwood member is a blocky limestone, usually about six feet thick. This reliable thickness and its white color have made it a popular building stone throughout the state.

Rock Springs. One of the most prolific springs in the state, Rock Springs is located in Dickinson County at the Rock Springs 4-H Camp. The spring issues from a bluff of the Florence Limestone Member of the Barneston Limestone and produces around 1,000 gallons of water per minute. To get to Rock Springs, take U.S. Highway 77 south from I-70 to Kansas Highway 157 (about 8 miles south of Junction City). Follow 157 east (about 2.75 miles) and then south (about one mile) to Rock Springs.

color photo of water flowing down manmade channel into pool

Rock Springs in Dickinson County.

Pillsbury Crossing. Located south of the town of Zeandale in Riley County, Pillsbury Crossing is a waterfall on the south branch of Deep Creek. Here, Deep Creek is about 40 feet wide and drops four or five feet over a ledge in the Elmont Limestone Member (of the Emporia Limestone). To get to Pillsbury Crossing from I-70, take Deep Creek Road (exit 316) north to Pillsbury Crossing Road. Follow Pillsbury Crossing Road to the east approximately 2 miles.

color photo of water flowing over wide limestone ledge

Pillsbury Crossing, a waterfall on Deep Creek in Riley County.

Scenic Drives in the Flint Hills. The Flint Hills Scenic Byway is a 48-mile stretch of Kansas Highway 177 between Cassoday in northeastern Butler County and Council Grove in Morris County. Highway 177 not only offers a good view of typical Flint Hills territory, it takes you to Cottonwood Falls (home of the Chase County Courthouse described above) and the Z Bar Ranch located in the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Two miles north of Strong City, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve protects a portion of pristine grassland, home to 40 species of grasses, 200 species of birds, 30 mammals, plus reptiles, amphibians, and as many as 10 million insects per acre. The ranchhouse and many of the buildings on the preserve are built with Cottonwood Limestone, which contains numerous fossils of fusulinids, a one-celled animal with a shell shaped like a grain of wheat.

Another scenic drive is the road south from Matfield Green in southern Chase County to the town of Madison in northeastern Greenwood County.

color photo of limestone Spring Hill Ranch house at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Spring Hill Ranch house, constructed of native limestone, at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Chase County.

Roadcut near Council Grove. A good place to see limestone and shale strata is in the roadcut on U.S. Highway 56 just east of Council Grove. Between highway markers 353 and 354, three different units are exposed: the Funston Limestone is at the bottom, overlain by the Speiser Shale and the Threemile Limestone Member (of the Wreford Limestone). The Funston Limestone is a light-gray to bluish-gray limestone that occasionally contains layers of shale and chert. It is quarried near Onaga and was used in the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene and in the Topeka Public Library. The Speiser Shale comes in a variety of colors and varies in thickness from 18 to 35 feet. The Threemile member is one of the chert-bearing limestones that crop out to form the Flint Hills.

Geodes in Dickinson County. A good place to find geodes is in a roadcut ¼ mile west of Chapman, on 4th Street. These geodes occur in the Cresswell Limestone Member, which is part of the Winfield Limestone.


Brookins, D. G., 1970, The Kimberlites of Riley County, Kansas: Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 200, 32 p. [available online]

Buchanan, Rex C., and McCauley, James R., 1987, Roadside Kansas--A Traveler's Guide to Its Geology and Landmarks: Lawrence, Kansas, University Press of Kansas, 365 p.

Buchanan, Rex, Richardson, Larry, and Sawin, Bob, 1998, Spring Surprises: Kansas!, Spring 1998, p. 15-16.

Evans, Catherine S., 1988, From Sea to Prairie--A Primer of Kansas Geology: Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Series 6, 60 p.

Jackson, Julia A., editor, 1997, Glossary of Geology (Fourth Edition): Alexandria, Virginia, American Geological Institute, 769 p.

Mansker, W. L., Richards, B. D., and Cole, G. P., 1987, A Note on Newly Discovered Kimberlites in Riley County, Kansas: Geological Society of America, Special Paper 215, p. 197-204.

Schoewe, W. H., 1949, The Geography of Kansas: Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, v. 52, no. 3, p. 261-333.

Skelton, Lawrence, 1997, Wichita's Building Blocks--A Guide to Building Stones and Geological Features: Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Series 11, 28 p.

Tolsted, Laura L., and Swineford, Ada, revised by Buchanan, Rex C., 1986, Kansas Rocks and Minerals: Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Series 2, 60 p.

Wilson, Frank W., 1978, Kansas Landscapes--A Geologic Diary: Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Series 5, 50 p.

Text by Liz Brosius, Kansas Geological Survey. Unless noted otherwise, illustrations by Jennifer Sims, Kansas Geological Survey; photographs by John Charlton, Kansas Geological Survey.

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