Page 2--Introduction


Imagine it's a nice summer day and you decide to take a walk in the Kansas countryside. Being in an adventuresome mood, you get off the road and head through open country. In the distance is a large body of water. From the shore it looks bigger than any lake you've ever seen in Kansas. You can't even see the other side.

Strolling along the shore picking up seashells, you decide to take off your shoes and wade in. Suddenly, a fin splits the water and cuts rapidly and silently toward you. A giant mouth filled with sharp teeth pops out of the water and you're nose to nose with one long, sharp shark snout. You can hardly lift your feet out of the oozy mud as you turn and slowly struggle through the water with a mean and hungry shark on your tail. Just when you think you'll be shark supper, the shark turns, as if you're of no interest at all.

As you recover on the beach, a giant shadow passes over. Looking up, you see huge featherless birds circling around. But they're not birds at all. They're giant reptiles with nearly 20-foot wings. Grabbing your shoes, you don't wait around to see what else this beach has to offer. You run for miles before stopping to check where you are. By now you're hopelessly lost.

Down the road the scenery turns into rolling grasslands, broken by an occasional clump of trees. This scene doesn't seem too unusual for Kansas, but the hippopotamus wallowing in the pond to your left looks out of place. To your right a camel stares as you pass. Things are definitely a little strange.

Soon you're heading across a hot, dry desert covered with sand dunes. As quickly as the desert appeared, the temperature plunges and the ground is covered with ice. Sudden weather changes aren't unusual in Kansas, but this is ridiculous. You realize you haven't seen any people or buildings since you started this trip, and, by the way, this really isn't what Kansas is supposed to look like.

Just when you think you'll never see civilization again, the ice is gone and you're heading across a grassy plain. You come across a well-worn path and turn down it. Ahead a large cloud of dust appears. It's moving rapidly toward you--closer and closer. Suddenly, large, hairy animals come roaring out of the dust. Scrambling up a nearby hill, you turn to look just in time to see the spot where you had been standing swallowed up by a herd of bison. Eventually the herd and dust rumble on down the path.

You scan the horizon for more stampeding bands of bison, when off in the distance--could it be?--a truck zips over a hill. Maybe it's just a mirage, but at least it doesn't have sharp teeth or huge, flapping wings, and it's not headed toward you with a hungry look on its grill, so you figure it's worth checking out. When you reach the spot where you sighted the truck, a road appears and things begin to look a little familiar again. Heading down the highway, you eventually find your way home for a good night's sleep.

In the morning, you wake up and hesitantly open the curtains. Everything is the way it should be. Running to the library, you search for information on Kansas landscapes and wildlife. You find that Kansas has grasslands, hills and trees, and many farms, towns, cities, and about two million people. Also a variety of animals including coyotes, deer, skunks, and many birds and fish are now found in Kansas, although none from the shark family and definitely no large flying reptiles.

But where are the sea, the desert, the massive ice fields, the hippopotamus, camel, and bison that you saw? Reading on, you discover that in the past, Kansas has had all of these landscapes and has been home to all of these animals at one time or another. You have been on a trip--not only through Kansas, but through time.


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Kansas Geological Survey
Placed online Feb. 1, 1996
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URL = http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Publications/primer/primer02.html