High Plains—Places to Visit

drawing of outline of this region on Kansas map

High Plains--Intro | High Plains--Rocks and Minerals
High Plains--Places to Visit | Other regions

Download fact sheet on the rocks and minerals of the High Plains.

Arikaree Breaks. The rugged landscape of the Arikaree Breaks was carved by water in the windblown loess deposits that blanket this part of the High Plains. To see the Breaks, take Kansas Highway 27 north of its junction with U.S. Highway 36 (the junction is two miles west of the town of St. Francis).

Lake Scott State Park. This scenic area is a good place to see outcrops of the Ogallala Formation, which is well known as an underground aquifer throughout the High Plains (see additional discussion in field trip guidebook). At the park, the Ogallala crops out at the surface as hard, dense sandstones and conglomerates cemented with calcium carbonate, known locally as mortar beds. At the south end of the park, the Ogallala forms a long ridge called Devil's Backbone. Originally called Lake McBride, Scott Lake was one of the first areas set aside in the Kansas parks system. Near the west edge of the lake is the site of a pueblo built by a group of Taos Indians in the 1600's. The El Cuartelejo Ruins, as they are now called, have been designated as a National Historic Landmark. For more information, contact Scott State Park, 520 W. Scott Lake Drive Scott City, KS 67871-1075 (316) 872-2061 or visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks website at http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us/parks/parks.html.

color photo of lake surrounded by rugged rock outcrops

The rugged canyons and craggy bluffs at Lake Scott State Park stand out from the typical shortgrass prairie of the surrounding High Plains region.

Point of Rocks. Located in Morton County, in the southwest corner of the state, Point of Rocks is one of the few places where Jurassic rocks are exposed at the surface in Kansas. Capped by the Ogallala Formation, Point of Rocks was an important landmark on the Santa Fe Trail's Cimarron Cut-off (known as the Dry Route). Near this landmark, Middle Spring offered a reliable source of water to thirsty travelers. Numerous wagon ruts are still visible in the vicinity. Point of Rocks is located west of Kansas Highway 27, about 10 miles north of the town of Elkhart in the Cimarron National Grasslands.

color photo of plateau-like outcrop on horizon in otherwise flat landscape

Point of Rocks, Morton County.

Fick Fossil and History Museum. This museum is located just off Interstate 70 in the town of Oakley at 700 W. Third. It features Cretaceous fossils, most of which were collected within a 50-mile radius of Oakley. Included in the fossil exhibits are sharks' teeth, mosasaurs, and plesiosaurs, as well as other representatives of the Cretaceous seas. The museum also houses exhibits of mammalian and plant fossils, rocks and minerals, and archeological pieces. The museum is open year-round, Mondays through Saturdays, 9:00 to 5:00; from Memorial Day to Labor Day, it is also open Sundays, 2:00 to 4:00 pm (785) 672-4839.


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.

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

Goodin, D. G., Mitchell, J. E., Knapp, M. C., and Bivens, R. E., 1995, Climate and Weather Atlas of Kansas--An Introduction: Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Series 12, 24 p.

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

High Plains--Intro | High Plains--Rocks and Minerals
High Plains--Places to Visit | Other regions