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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Jan. 11, 2007

New Map of Barber County Available

LAWRENCE--A new full-color map of the geology at the surface in Barber County, in south-central Kansas, is now available from the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.

This is the first detailed map of the geology of Barber County, known for its canyons, caves, and gypsum-capped buttes and mesas. The geology was mapped by Survey geologist Jim McCauley.

The map shows the type and age of rock layers found at the surface or immediately under the vegetation and soil. In Barber County, much of the bedrock was deposited during the Permian Period of geologic history, or about 250 million years ago. This includes many of the rock formations that make up the county's scenic Red Hills.

Those formations consist of layers of gypsum, shale, siltstone, sandstone, and other rocks, many of which were laid down at the bottom of a shallow sea that covered this part of Kansas during the Permian Period. Gypsum caps many of these hills; the area is also known as the Gypsum Hills.

Because geologic maps show the rock formations likely to be encountered in a given location, they are useful for understanding soils and agriculture, searching for water and mineral deposits, and for a variety of engineering and environmental purposes.

"Barber County is an area where the geology is dramatically displayed," said McCauley. "This map will help people understand that geology and identify the rocks that are found there."

Much of the western two-thirds of the county is covered by a rock formation called the Flower-pot Shale, which includes layers of shale and gypsum. The Flower-pot Shale is named after Flower-pot Mound, a hill about eight miles southwest of Medicine Lodge. Other rock layers common in Barber County are part of the Blaine Formation, which includes gypsum, shale, and a limestone-like rock called dolomite.

Other Permian rocks, called the Salt Plain Formation, are found in the southeastern part of the county.

In addition, younger rocks--deposited in the past few million years--occur in parts of the county, including dune sand in the northeastern corner of the county and near the town of Deerhead in west-central Barber County. The Ogallala Formation caps many of the hills in the western and north-central part of the county. Younger rock material is also found along many of the river beds.

Besides surface rocks, rivers, and streams, the map features towns, roads--from federal highways to unimproved roadways--lakes and ponds, political boundaries, and contour lines indicating elevations and the steepness of the terrain. As can be seen on the map, the location of many cultural features, such as towns, highways, and railroads, is influenced by the area's geology and topography. Medicine Lodge, the county seat, is located along the Medicine Lodge River. In addition, the Gyp Hills Trail, which connects to U.S. Highway 160 west of Medicine Lodge, cuts through some of the county's most dramatic scenery.

The map also shows quarries, such as the locations around Sun City where gypsum has been quarried for more than a century.

The map, which measures 60 inches by 52 inches, is drawn at a scale of 1:50,000 so that one inch on the map equals about 3/4 mile of actual distance.

Copies of the new map are available from the Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Ave., Lawrence, KS 66047-3724 (or phone 785-864-3965). The cost is $15, plus $4 for handling and postage. Kansas residents should call for specific sales tax to be charged. More information about the maps and other KGS products is available at the Survey's web site (

Link of interest to this article:
Barber County Geologic Map

Story by Rex Buchanan, (785) 864-2106.
For more information, contact Jim McCauley, (785) 864-2192.

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach