KGS Home Education Index Page Physiographic Maps Start

Physiographic Map--Wellington-McPherson Lowlands

Early Permian seas helped shape the Flint Hills, the Osage Cuestas, and the Chautauqua Hills in eastern Kansas. Later Permian seas in central and western Kansas left behind thick layers of salt, which was buried by other sediment and remained hidden for millions of years until it was accidentally discovered in 1887 by drillers looking for oil and gas near Hutchinson. This salt turned out to be part of a large bed that underlies much of central and western Kansas. Today, salt mining is a major industry in Reno, Rice, and Ellsworth counties.

Much of the salt is brought to the surface by miners who spend their workdays chipping, drilling, and dynamiting salt in caverns more than 600 feet underground. Most salt from underground mining is used in industry or to melt ice from roads in winter. Table salt, also mined in the area, is brought to the surface by drilling a hole deep in the ground and forcing water down it, dissolving the salt. The salt solution is then forced up to the surface where the water is evaporated, leaving the salt behind.

Because the salt contains no moisture, some of the caverns that are no longer mined are now used for storing things such as government papers and old Hollywood films. Underground salt is also dissolved to form caverns for storage of natural gas and similar products. Limestone and shale beds above and below the salt keep water out of the cavern.

KGS Home Top Page

Kansas Geological Survey
Updated March 14, 1997
Send comments to
The URL for this page is